samedi, octobre 20, 2007

Interview with Walt Mueller

What does God want for our kids?
By Elizabeth
Published: Oct 20, 2007 12:01 AM EST
Driving home in the dark, I'm blindly surfing my radio presets (the ones that aren't public radio and classical) at my 12-year-old daughter's request.
Soulja Boy's "Crank That" is on the air in Lancaster — neither of us understand the words, but the song is on her iPOD, she tells me. Wilmington is playing a song by Rihanna, the teen that dresses like a refugee from Wisteria Lane. "Under My Umbrella" is on my daughter's iPOD, too.
Back to the Lancaster station and, oh what a relief, a song by Lifehouse — weren't they some kind of a Christian band before they got famous?
In the space of about five minutes, I've gone from suspicious to skeptical to probably misinformed — do I sound like you?
Which is why, moms and dads, teachers and pastors, we need Dr. Walt Mueller and his Center for Parent/Youth Understanding.
Born almost 20 years ago when Mueller was a youth minister in a Philadelphia-area congregation, CPYU's motto is "Understanding Culture to Impact Culture."
His message to sometimes perplexed and often ignorant Christian parents like me is both simple and challenging: Wise up to the cultural messages your kids are taking in a media marketplace that is only growing more sophisticated and diverse.
Criticize culture, don't demonize it.
And keep asking prayerfully and persistently: What does God want for our kids?
Mueller's persistent call to cross-cultural understanding has made him a rarity in the faction-riven denominational Christian world — a man who builds bridges rather than silos. In fact, he has served as a government consultant, and his work on character-building and critical cultural consumption has been "translated" into secular language and is being used in public school curriculums.
In the last year and a half alone, CPYU has produced five books. "Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture," the product of Mueller's doctoral dissertation work at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, lays the theological and biblical foundations for Mueller's practical cram course for youth pastor and parents "Youth Culture 101."
The result of a full-court press to reach high school seniors and college students, "The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness" was written by CYPU staff member Derek Melleby.
On a relatively small budget of $450,000 a year, Mueller's staff sets a high standard for productivity. The CPYU Web site (, which gets approximately 6,000 hits a day, is constantly updated with movie, resource and music reviews, as well as Mueller's blog postings.
A quarterly e-zine, Engage, offers parents perspectives on such popular television shows as "American Idol" and the musical group Good Charlotte.
Even students who attend supportive youth groups and are raised in faithful families aren't making the transition well to college, says Mueller. Many abandon Christian activities once they move away from home. Even those who remain involved tell CYPU staff that they find it hard to keep up with changing media and culture, says Mueller.
Although he travels the country speaking to crowds both huge and small, and has a one-minute daily radio spot that airs on around 850 stations (catch him on WJTL in Lancaster), Mueller is not a charismatic made-for-prime time megachurch wannabe.
Soft-spoken, calm, and reflective, the Elizabethtown-based father of four simmers with a determined passion driven by his sense of urgency and his belief that he is fulfilling a call from God.
He has nothing but respect for today's youth, whom he describes as smart and engaging. But he does have a word of warning for their parents. The complaints he hears most often from teens are: "they don't listen" and "they don't understand."
If you want your kids to be more critical, and more prayerful about buying what the global culture is selling, if you want them to be consciously faithful to God rather than becoming avatars for the latest secular trends, you need to make time to do both things, asserts Mueller.
Recently a driver who had probably fallen asleep at the wheel crashed into Mueller's office, leading him to reflect not only on his narrow escape from the jaws of death but on how to build a CYPU legacy of cross-cultural mission and reconciliation that would last after he had moved on.
In partnership with God and His grace, we have a similar job description: building character and faithfulness in our own kids.
But, as Mueller has made it his life's work to teach us, on-the-job training has to start right here with me and with you — for the sake of our children, and our world, and the Kingdom.

A few things that bug me

I don't think I am feeling particularly ticked off today, but a few things got under my skin, and I wondered if they bothered you as well.

A. Middle Class, affluent Christians who have never known significant tragedy who believe everything that God will only allow hard things to occur when they are ready to confront them. How do they explain children who die of AIDS in Africa or getting shot on the streets of Philadelphia-that their mothers and dads were ready to let them die? Or perhaps that the poor are better able to cope with loss than those of us who have a lot of material things?

I have always found this simple minded, to be frank. However, I know many good people believe this-and it makes the scary times less frightening. I can bite my tongue when people who have suffered hardship or who don't have a lot of money or an SUV or a country home say that God will not give us more than we can stand. But tonight, when I read a devotion in which a British mom wrote that, I wanted to write her and say-what makes you sure? I'd love to hear someone assert this from a non-white, non-privileged POV.

B. Surveys that prove things I don't wish to believe. Recently one came out that said it was healthy for families to eat dinner together-whether or not they ate dinner in front of the TV! Hopefully someone, somewhere is even now proving that it is much healthier to argue with your son over how many pieces of sweet potato and squash he eats and to tell your daughter she can't have a half gallon of ice cream without having the TV on while you eat.

C. The automated attendant named "Julie" on Amtrak. No matter how many times we chat, she can't get my phone number right. Fire that woman!

jeudi, octobre 18, 2007

Amish Grace

I'm reading this wonderful book in preparation for interviewing one of the authors, Dr. Kraybill, who has made it his lifelong calling to study the Amish and other Anabaptists. He's written a lot of books on the Amish and Anabaptists but this one was occcasioned by the tragedy of last year, when five girls were killed by a man who then killed himself.

The three men who wrote the book are rightly reticent about the actual tragedy. They spend most of the book analyzing how the Amish understand forgiveness from a New Testament perspective-and how their communal culture creates a basis for practicing forgiveness. Kraybill and his two colleagues did many interviews with Amish people around Nickel Mines-I doubt that would have been possible without a trust relationship between them and the Elizabetown prof. I'm very eager to meet him.

mercredi, octobre 17, 2007

The public life

Thanks to her gracious willingness to let me troll for possible contributors, I'm going to have a "guest spot on Leslie Morgan Steiner's "On Balance" blog sometime soon. I told my daughter that tonight and she asked if I would mention her. I confessed that I am ambivalent about mentioning my kids and their identities on my 'blog. After all, I am strewing words on a public document which can be seen by readers as far away as China and as close as my friend down the block.

Not to mention that writing about one's family, particularly as a journalist who is published fairly regularly, might even been seen by some members as exploitative. And, judging by the lawsuits brought occasionally by family members against each other, they are.

I hope that my kids will forgive me, as they grow mature enough to ponder the compromises of a writer's life, if I have opened up any cupboards and revealed things that they didn't wish to be mentioned. I don't think I have, thus far.

Does this reluctance to explore the less lovely elements in our family life hamper me as a writer? I dunno-I doubt it, though. On the whole, you know, I'd much rather write about your family, than about mine.

lundi, octobre 15, 2007

Compromising Our Humanity

Check the link above for the whole article by Frank Rich, who asks a question we all need to answer.

"Our moral trajectory over the Bush years could not be better dramatized than it was by a reunion of an elite group of two dozen World War II veterans in Washington this month. They were participants in a top-secret operation to interrogate some 4,000 Nazi prisoners of war. Until now, they have kept silent, but America’s recent record prompted them to talk to The Washington Post.
“We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, 90, an M.I.T. physicist whose interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, took place over a chessboard. George Frenkel, 87, recalled that he “never laid hands on anyone” in his many interrogations, adding, “I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”

The Righteous Sisters

Glancing back briefly at my recent 'blog posts, I am struck by their rather pious tone. It might sound to the reader like I couldn't figure out why those ignoramuses running Washington or moms driving their Explorers to pick up their kids from Little League just didn't get it-when "it" is so incredibly clear.

Blame it on my expensive prep school education, which taught us intelligence would rule the world. Blame it on my idealism, still buried under the skepticism of a writer who seeks to describe the eccentric and the unconventional so that the "normal" ones will somewhere find themselves. Blame it on the full moon.

But, dear readers, if I told you that that I don't have a slight streak of elitism and arrogance running through my personality, I would be lying like a rug. And it is little excuse that the Savanarolas in the Bush adminstration have evoked my not so latent hostility with such blundering skill.

I remember my beloved grandmother and her sister, signing petitions to stop the Vietnam War, feeding us cucumber sandwiches on peace marches, earnestly going to anti-nuke meetings-and somehow staying free of the acid of self-rightousness.

I wonder how Grandma Sarah and Aunt Jennie managed to convey certainty without pride, humanitarian passion with humor, vision without surrender. I wish I had more of what they had-or is that the fate of the descendants of extraordinary men and women-to parse what is lacking more than to praise what is there?