Thursday, February 23, 2012

Moral Values Grades

Just like 4 years ago, I'm doing a 4 week evening series on the presidential candidates and the issues. This week we covered 'moral issues.' In the session I just present the information, but here are my personal grades.

11 points: Ron Paul
9 points: Mitt Romney
6 points: Rick Santorum
6 points: Newt Gingrich
-1 point: Barack Obama

In the background/faith column, Gingrich actually lost a point, Obama broke even, Santorum got a point, while Paul & Romney both got 2 points.

In the abortion/marriage column, Obama lost 2 points, Santorum gained 3, Romney & Gingrich picked up 4, and Paul got 6.

In the miscellaneous column, Obama gained 1, Santorum 2, while the other 3 each got 3.

My system is simple
+2 when I agree big time
+1 when I agree
0 when I am generally indifferent (or can see pros and cons)
-1 when I disagree

Monday, February 13, 2012

Top 10 Christian Music

10. Rebecca St. James
Like most Christian guys growing up in the 90's, I had a crush on Rebecca Jean Smallbone (strangely enough, that is her birth-name). I remember thinking that we'd probably meet at a concert and fall in love. Well, I got married on the last day of 2008 (and, apparently, Rebecca got married in April of 2011), so that love story is over. But she can still stay on the list for now.

9. Michael W. Smith
If I had made this top 10 list 15-20 years ago, Michael W. Smith may have been number 1. But, as they say, timing is everything. I liked Michael W. Smith back then because I could sing in a way that sounded a lot like him and his songs were often fun. He's fallen down the list b/c the majority of his lyrics aren't as strong as some of my favorites. I actually like him better as a worship leader nowadays.

8. Robin Mark
I'm not as big a fan of some of the real hip worship leaders as a lot of people are, but I do really like Robin Mark's stuff. I find that he consistently writes songs that lead me into worship and for that he definitely deserves to be on this list. I haven't gone out of my way to listen to all his stuff, so there's real potential that he could move closer to the medal positions.

7. Third Day
There was definitely a time when Third Day was my favorite Christian band. They are a high quality band. I think they did a good job of sounding as good as secular music while still having rich Christian lyrics. What hurts Third Day in my rankings is just the fact that they put out so much stuff that I just feel a lot of it is sub-par. I haven't listened to them in a long time. Maybe if I do they'll make a comeback?

6. Phillips, Craig and Dean
They might be modalists, but PC&D are certaintly gifted song-writers and singers. I love a lot of their songs. I haven't listend to their more recent praise-song stuff, but they were awful good at writing story songs and/or hammering home a powerful biblical truth. I should probably re-listen to them again soon.

5. Derek Webb
I am not sure about Derek Webb. He used to be in the band Caedmon's Call, but then went solo. I absolutely loved one of his free CD's (he does all sorts of interesting things to share his music). What I like about Derek is that his songs, unlike a lot of Christian music, are trying to say something substantial. His songs, in other words, can be convicting... and that's a valuable thing. I might not always agree with everything he sings, but I want to hear it.

4. Caedmon's Call
I rank Caedmon's Call ahead of Derek Webb based mostly on quantity. Yes, they seem to be pretty strong Calvinists, but I freely decide to like their music anyways. They have a good combination of fun songs and theological songs. They also have a great ability to put Scriptural phrases and images to music. It's nice to hear different lead vocalists while listening to a CD (although I definitely prefer the main leads in this group to the less frequent leads).

3. Steven Curtis Chapman
I'm giving SCC a medal spot for a combination of quality and quantity. He's not super theological like Derek Webb, Caedmon's Call, or even PC&D.... but actually he's written a lot of practical theology. SCC has helped me grieve, love my wife, etc. That's powerful stuff. He's also had fun doing it, which is a big plus in my book.

2. Michael Card
There's a pretty good gap between the top 2 and the rest of this list. I love Michael Card's music. I really enjoy how he has music for different books/sections of the Bible. Rich lyrics combine with an impressive vocal range. I was about to go see him in concert (in Lockport, no less), but decided to propose to Katie instead. Maybe I'll see him in the future, but I'll definitely be listening in the meantime.

1. The Waiting
It was not hard for me to select my number 1 all time favorite Christian music. It comes from the band The Waiting. Who? Not very many people have heard of this band, but I just loved almost every song they put out. I heard them in concert multiple times, but I'm not much of a concert guy. I have 4 CD's in my possession. The first 2 are incredible. The last 2 are very good. There are even rumors of a new CD (after a decade plus off?). I can't imagine them losing their #1 spot. It'd take a ton.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Important Issues

I had my Wednesday night group check what national issues are important to them (to help me prepare our 'meet the candidates' series starting in a couple of weeks). The list was made from the 'issues' that appear on the campaign websites of the 5 current Presidential Candidates.

Here are the issues that matter most to them:
17 votes (Abortion, Economy, Health Care)
16 votes (Social Security)
14 votes (Faith, Immigration, National Debt)
13 votes (Gay Marriage, Taxes, Homeland Security)
12 votes (Energy)
11 votes (Gun Rights, Education)
10 votes (Environment, Foreign Policy)
7 votes (Equal Rights, Court Judges, Entitlements)
6 votes (Home-schooling)
5 votes (Federal Reserve/Monetary Policy)

Monday, February 06, 2012

Top 10 in Music (Non-Christian)

I'll admit, this is an odd collection of artists from multiple genres, but that is the beauty of my individual top 10 lists :)

10. Haley Reinhart
In some ways this is a projection, but in other ways it's not. Haley finished 3rd on Season 10 of American Idol, but won me as a fan. I often mow to her music (you read that right) and anticipate more good stuff coming from her. She could either fall of the list or rise quite high based on what she does independent of the show.

9. The Goo Goo Dolls
I really like their sound, but it certainly didn't hurt their top 10 status to be from my home (Western NY). With one awesome CD (Dizzy up the Girl) and a number of other solid songs, the Goo Goo Dolls can make quite an argument to stay in the top 10.

8. Iron and Wine
There might not be a 'sound' I like better than Iron and Wine. Sam Beam's hushed vocals and hauntingly beautiful guitar playing make him the perfect companion for a relaxing drive. He's at number eight simply because I've only fallen in love with a small number of the songs.

7. Thomas Newman
Not as famous as his brother Randy (perhaps you've never heard of either!), but you know Thomas Newman's work. He's made the music behind some of my favorite movies (including the Shawshank Redemption and Meet Joe Black). Look him up and you'll discover that he's made a lot of great movie scores. We even used his music for our wedding.

6. John Michael Montgomery
I used to listen to a lot of country music. At one point I decided to compile a list of all my favorite country songs so that I could put them on one CD. Low and behold, I discovered that a large percentage of my favorites were from 1 guy: JMM. His greatest hits CD is almost synonymous with my favorite country song list.

5. Randy Travis
Randy edges JMM in a tight race. I guess what gives Randy Travis the advantage is his rather distinct sound. It might also help that I can somewhat duplicate that sound. I like to sing along in the car and Randy & I are a pretty good match. He also sings quite a few Christian songs.

4. Avril Lavigne
Surprised? I like pretty much all of her songs. They are fun. I like songs with deep meaning, but sometimes I just like to relax when listening to music. Another good thing about her is that she's still young and has the potential to come out with a bunch more stuff I enjoy.

3. The Buffalo Chips
Who? The Buffalo Chips are SUNY Buffalo's only all-male a cappella group. The members have changed much over the years, but the sum of their many CD's is a great collection of pop hits done solely with voices.

2. Jewel
Her debut album may be one of the greatest debut albums of all-time. For me, it's also one of the greatest albums of all-time in general. Since then, her stuff is not as raw (and I use the term raw in a totally positive way here), but on the first CD alone she'll forever be on my top 10 list.

1. Weird Al
It isn't really even very close. Weird Al is by far my favorite secular musical artist. He has both top-end quality and overall quantity in his favor. His parodies are clever and often better than the originals. Great stuff for a fun and relaxing drive. I tried to make a best hits CD a while back and had trouble getting down to 40 songs for 2 CD's. And he's still pumping good stuff out!

Friday, February 03, 2012