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The thing we don’t want to admit about 50 Shades…

I’ve read through a handful of articles this week that take aim at the release of 50 Shades of Grey the movie and have concluded that there is a long list of points I would love to indulge in making about the whole kafuffel but I’ve narrowed my thoughts down to this…

I’d like to take a moment to consider the real problem surrounding the media fuss over 50 Shades of Grey. Sure, this movie is degrading to women (and in actual fact, men also), depicts them as mindless sex objects, condones voilent sexual behaviour toward them and is, as Lisa Wilkinson described so aptly, “Domestic abuse dressed up as erotica.”

But here’s what really troubles me…

Every single day most men, and many women, are up to their eyeballs in ‘leisurely viewing’ that makes 50 Shades look like Play School…and no one seems particularly bothered.

Yep. The P word. Pornography. Heaven forbid anyone gets between Aussies and their right to watch porn, but here I go nevertheless. Our obsession with it has hit crisis point right under our noses and, as far as being a talking point in the media and on the general consciousness of our culture, it can’t even hold a candle to the wildfire of media attention that has followed 5SOG.

Here’s the thing: 50 Shades is just reflecting back to us the values that are being cultivated in our culture daily through every facet of the media, and we’re all about 30 years too late to start getting offended by it. By all means, I believe we should still object to it and perhaps, over time, small wins against the messages of movies like this can help society army crawl its way to higher ground. But the point still remains – stop picking and choosing what to be offended by. You cannot take offense at this movie and also turn a blind eye to the prevalence of pornography in our culture.

Many people, myself included, take huge issue with the sexualised themes of 50 Shades and I was greatly encouraged to see Lisa Wilkinson speak out against it through mainstream media. But why are we picking a fight with this movie now in 2015 when, from the moment the internet has existed there has been boys claiming to be men watching hours of hardcore pornography like its as routine as reading the morning newspaper. Pornography that is generally highly sexualised towards women, treats them as less-than-human sex objects and is strongly themed around male domination.

These are the same ‘Aussie blokes’ who feature on the list of the top five nations represented amongst clients at brothels in countries like Thailand and Cambodia – places these cowards can go to perform any of their degrading sex fantasies on human-trafficked little girls dolled up as sex workers when their wives and girlfriends back home aren’t up for reenacting the highlight reel from their hour-a-day porn addiction.

Australia is having a sexual identity crisis.

Porn, especially with increasingly violent content, is very real and its beginning to show its ugly effects throughout our culture. It is proving to be the primary influencer of young peoples understanding of sexual intercourse, meaning that we are in the very early stages of seeing an entire generation who’ve been raised on pornography and indoctrinated to view sex through the male dominant, affection-less, violent brand of sex displayed in it.

Most guys are watching it relentlessly, and the statistics of young women viewing it are increasing rapidly – why? So they can know what is expected of them in the bedroom and how to ‘perform’ to the sad and unrealistic expectations of guys who’ve been brainwashed on it.

And, bye the way, the average age of exposure to porn for males is 11 years old. ELEVEN! I’m not just talking about 16 year olds’ stealing a Playboy magazine. This isn’t the 70’s. Children as young as 12 are consistently watching highly graphic pornography.

For more information about the repercussions of porn in the context of a relationship, I can’t recommend highly enough that you check out this article which, ironically, was posted by GQ Magazine – a men’s magazine that has a habit of putting semi naked women on their front cover and filling their issues with sexually driven content.

It’s time to do more than just complain about one highly sexualised movie and to look at the deeper issue. The effects are all around us on a daily basis. It’s 2015 and we are still treating women like objects in so many different pockets of our culture and its all reflective of a society who’s foundational views of sexuality are entrenched with porn. After making so many advances in the treatment of women in recent generations, this is taking us backwards.

In recent times, there’s an increasing awareness on the fight for women’s equality (which I’m all for), but so long as we do nothing about an entire generation of young people being raised on pornography, that fight will be less than pointless.

So long as the majority of men’s fundamental understanding of sexual interaction is that the woman’s role is to perform whatever sexual acts a man desires, the idea of women ever obtaining a respected and equal place in our society is delusional.

For more reading on this topic, check out the amazing team at Collective Shout who do a great job speaking out about the objectification of women.

This is about more than a controversial movie and more than porn. It’s about the enormous ripple effect throughout culture that comes from pornography’s depiction of sex becoming the widely accepted norm. It reinforces women’s value to a society as being entirely tied to their physical appearance and how that can be harnessed to make money or be enjoyed as a sexual object. I don’t know about you, but I’m not convinced I ever want to bring a daughter into that world. I want to contribute to making our culture one that values women for their intellect, wit, gifts and their contribution to the lives around them.

50 Shades of Grey is a reflection of a culture in a sexual identity crisis. It’s time that we pick a fight with more than a movie.

If you’re keen to read more about the epidemic of pornography in western culture, consider trying Fight The New Drug. They are doing great work helping people fight addiction.

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Luke & Learne’s Adventure

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Hey friends,

 

As many of you will know, on October 31st I will work my last day after over 7 great years with CYC Ministries, most of which has been spent pouring my heart and soul into the Forest Edge Music Festival.

The decision came as a result of much prayer and consultation that saw me and my wife, Learne, reach a place where we felt confident that God had something new, exciting and most likely terrifying for us. At the time we had no idea what that would be next, but the words Redeeming Pop Culture rattled about in my mind daily and a fresh and convicting sense of calling followed. Rather than prattle on about that here, feel free to refer to a blog I wrote that unpacks it some more.

 

As I deciphered what I felt God saying, I felt a call to advocate on behalf of Christian artists and see them embraced, supported and sent out by the wider church to have an impact on culture. As someone with a collection of experience in music, faith and culture I felt uniquely positioned to throw whatever weight I had behind christian people making great art. The opportunities were, and are, endless.

 

Never would I have expected that God would open the door to not just advocate on behalf of Christian musicians taking their faith and music into the secular world, but to actually be one. As you likely know by now, Learne and I will be moving to Coolum Beach in Queensland for me to join Selahphonic as their new guitarist. The guys in the band are long time friends of ours and we are incredibly excited. However, I can’t stress enough that this is not about joining a band. It is about joining a mission. 

 

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MEET SELAH

Time simply doesn’t allow for me to explain the depth of how active God has been in this process, but I am beyond a shadow of a doubt that Selahphonic is not only the perfect personification of the conviction God has placed on my heart in recent months, but that it is what He had waiting for us when we decided to finish at FEMF. In fact, I was blessed to have a great time of conversation and prayer with the guys as an integral part of me reaching the decision to resign. Not only that, but just one week after resigning with no clue what would come next, the news came through that Selahphonic were in need of a new member. Crazy crazy timing.

 

The reason for this long-winded email is that Learne and I are about to step out into the unknown and we want invite you along for the journey with us and reach out for your support. For the first time ever we are testing the waters of stepping out in radical faith and trusting that God will provide. Unsure of jobs, housing and a bunch of other details, the adventure begins now.

 

As a part of joining the ministry of Selahphonic we are attempting to secure 2 days per week of financial support to enable me to most effectively invest in Selahphonic and work towards the vision that I’ve been talking and writing about in recent weeks.

 

Rather than explain the whole thing in this email, I’ve put together a little VIDEO to explain further which I encourage you to watch.

 

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WATCH THE VIDEO

If you feel that you would like to support us then we would be beyond grateful and you can do so very easily by simply filling out your details HERE and I will follow up the rest of the process.

 

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SIGN UP

If you are unable to, then of course more than anything we need prayer for this crazy journey, in particular for the process of getting up to Coolum and settled in.

 

Our target is to reach a total of 38 Supporters at $50 per month or equivalent. If you feel led to contribute more then, by all means, please feel welcome to! Or if you would like to consider a once off contribution towards the cost of our interstate move that would also be incredible!

Blessings,
Luke and Learne Martin

 

God, Music and MTV

If you know me, you know that my passion is music; whether I’m playing it, seeing it live or watching documentaries on it that my wife considers only slightly more entertaining than watching paint dry. Years ago, something that stemmed from this passion was the desire to do something to help Christian musicians further their careers and have an impact on the world. After all, few things communicate a message more powerfully than music. This passion eventually manifested itself as what we now know as the Forest Edge Music Festival.

In the years of establishing the proposal for FEMF and the early days of actually running it, the Church had seen decades of bands pursue a successful model of explicitly Christian branding on their identity as a band. We saw an opportunity to continue building on this model for young Christian bands in Melbourne and Australia, with the festival serving as a stepping stone for them in pursuit of success as a band.

This overtly Christian model has been hugely popular and experienced a boom throughout the 90’s when the church very much adopted a ‘Sacred and Secular’ model where much of culture was seen to be inherently band, and Christian replicas of art and entertainment emerged in parallel with pop culture. Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) was born. Christian music became a genre.

“Traditionally, the church’s approach to secular music had been fear tactics: denouncing rock bands, staging record burnings. But this was the golden era [1990’s] of MTV, and Christian leaders, perhaps sensing they were up against a larger beast, opted for a more positive approach by promoting sanctioned (and sanctified) alternatives. Christian concerts became popular youth group events. My friends traveled to blowout festivals with names like “Acquire the Fire” or “Cornerstone.” – Sniffing Glue by Meghan O’Gieblyn 

Fast forward to 2014 and I increasingly find myself speaking with bands and musicians who are not pursuing this explicitly-christian-branding model of being an artist. More and more you’ll find circles in which being a ‘Christian band’ is a dirty word. Despite there being many great “Christian Bands”, sadly so many followed who just downright sucked. They were bands who were seen to be sucking on the tail pipe of culture instead of exercising their own creativity and musicianship. The term “Christian Band” often times just became synonymous with out-dated, tacky and cheap.

Meghan O’Gieblyn sums it up so well, speaking about the first time she laid eyes on MTV and witnessed the music video for Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. ”I couldn’t have told you what the word “irony” meant, but I knew I’d been cheated by Christian rock. This was crack, and I’d been wasting my time sniffing glue.” – Sniffing Glue by Meghan O’Gieblyn 

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With this reputation in mind, bands have increasingly seen the barriers that can be created through overtly branding themselves as Christian and, in many ways, the limits that places on their ability to take their art form to those who need it most- the unchurched. Now more than ever, artists want to play real songs to real people in real places. They want to be successful on account of their songs and not just their beliefs.

As I observe this and prayerfully consider what it all means, I’ve reached a strong belief that we are seeing a significant shift in the role that musicians and creatives serve on behalf of the Church.

I came to think of it like this…

These CCM bands of the 90’s and 00’s were, in a sense, evangelists. Evangelists are as overt as it gets. They roll into town loud and proud and serve people with a full frontal gospel message. These are bands who sounded just like bands from the secular music industry that one’s non-Christian friends would find relevant and relatable, providing a grounds on which to tell them about Jesus. And it worked. A lot. And it still does. I’m not saying it is an entirely flawed concept and these musicians/bands will always play a hugely important role in the life of the church, just like evangelists will. I have close friends who play in bands that fit this description. They are talented and wonderful people.

But, in contrast, consider for a moment the approach of a missionary in ministry. Whilst neither model of doing ministry is more right or wrong than its counterpart, different contexts definitely call for one over the other.

Missionaries move into a culture and begin a long and patient process of integrating into society, assimilating with the people and the customs of that culture. They, as Paul describes, become “all things to all people.” They may not see a life won for Jesus for decades, but over time their presence has the potential to often change the fabric of entire villages, cities or cultures.

I see bands who are, more than ever, adopting this missionary model of pursuing their music. They may rarely consciously see it this way or express it in these words, but its what they are doing. They may not be a missionary in a foreign third world tribe, but they are going into an existing culture with its own language, traditions and customs. The only difference is that instead of wearing a tribal head dress and carrying a spear to assimilate to a culture, they are wearing skinny jeans and carrying an electric guitar.        

I truly believe that these artists are the ones who will lead the church back to a place of influence in Western society.

I believe that we are coming into a time where the church needs artists to be missionaries. It needs musicians in the place where it has lost its voice – the arts and entertainment industry. The church brings evangelists in, but they send missionaries out. We’ve spent years bringing bands IN for camps, rallies and services but have had very little commitment to sending them OUT, as though for some strange reason a musician must be abandoning their faith to take their music beyond the church.

Builders can build houses for non christians and dentists can fix the teeth of the unsaved, but for some reason the church struggles with the idea of musicians playing music to the un-churched.

This is more than just passionate Christian musicians acknowledging that they need to take their message to where the lost are. It’s also Christian musicians realising that they have a place in culture and that their art can intersect with their faith without it having to create content that is overtly Christian in tone. They don’t have to recite bible verses or meet a Jesus Per Minute quota to be called a Christian artist.

The game has changed. We are seeing the end of a generation of Christianity that tried to be relevant through providing a parallell to everything modern western culture could offer, and instead we are seeing one that is trying to give Christian’s a voice in the thick of that culture.

It’s time for us to begin sending artists out and doing whatever it looks like to support them in that. Rather than contain their giftings to the church and hoping that others will come looking, we need to send them out so their gifts can be salt and light to their respective industries.

It’s important here to understand that I’m not saying we should do away with events like FEMF. I strongly believe in what this event offers and that it is a crucial ministry. It gives young people a breath of fresh air from the pollution of secular pop culture. It allows them to experience community with other like-minded youth and see that great music can be made by Christian people – that people can love Jesus and good music at the same time.

What I am talking about is the need for the church to make its mark on that polluted secular pop culture. How is the church influencing culture in a way that means maybe one day we won’t need festivals like FEMF to provide a safe haven from it because the church is so present and influential that the church and pop culture don’t look all that different? 

I began running FEMF because I wanted to help bands in their journey to wherever they are going and for many artists over the years, going via the festival on that journey has proven helpful and beneficial for them. But as I came to acknowledge the changes in these artists’ trajectory, I began to see that there needs to be people of faith right there with them. I feel that my vision has continued to gain clarity and conviction and its leading me down the road of working closer with the artists themselves. As for specifically what that will look like, I don’t yet know. All I know is that God is convicting me more than ever to go find out. 

Some of the world’s biggest artists, Mumford & Sons, Katy Perry and Bieber were raised in the church. All of them had the talent and drive to do great things in music, and pursued their careers beyond the ceiling that an overtly Christian model creates. Sadly though, their respective music scenes became their family as they found themselves immersed in a world void of fellow believers and their church families faded into the distance. If this is where Christian artists are increasingly placing themselves, then it’s where Christian promoters, managers and entrepreneurs need to be too.

If we act now, we may just have a chance at seeing the next generation of world class entertainers have the support and accountability needed to pursue their gifts without getting swallowed up by the world. Lets’ not be the church that loses our creative geniuses to the world. Let’s not be the church that tells the next U2 they can’t be Christians and play rock music. Let’s be the church that recognises, nurtures and sends out artists to unleash themselves on the world. It won’t know what hit it.