Archive for the ‘Social Interaction’ Category

Dear Warrensburg,

Words cannot express the times I have had abiding here. I came to you a naive, confused, self-conscious 18-year-old kid who thought he had his adult life planned out perfectly. I came to you in chains- dragging along my religious, personal, and emotional baggage. It was here, that I gained the closest friends I’ve ever made. It was here that I learned to accept who I am, and be at peace with that.  It was here that the moral-system I upheld so zealously (and blindly) was continually challenged and transformed. It was here that I experienced some of my lowest points. It was here that I realized how utterly broken I was, so that I could accept the grace-rooted life of Jesus Christ. It was here that I laughed, cried, hugged people, ate, played music, sported like 8 different hair cuts, helped people, dated, started protest rallies, drank lots of coffee, philosophized, socialized, made a bazillion Taco Bell runs, and learned how to truly share life with people.

In the last four years there have been a number of people who’ve invested in me and spoke wisdom into my life. These people have had made a difference in my life by how they live and how they interact with others. (Disclaimer: none of these people are perfect, nor would they prefer to be put on any kind of pedestal).  Most notably Roger Brant, Sara Johnson, Mark Bliss, and Carson Conover.

Carson and Roger were one of the first few people I met here at UCM. Carson was a senior and a student leader at the BSU. Roger was the new campus minister at the BSU. (They knew each other before-hand). I always kinda looked up to Carson because he was a few years older than me. It was one of the first times I had met a young Christian who lived the Christian life with a non-judgemental, loving attitude everywhere he went. Not to mention he’s a pretty intelligent dude (though he tries to hide it with quirky humor). Carson, obviously didn’t stick around long because he graduated in 2008. I did however get the chance to hang out with him and chat a handful of times later down the line. Every one-on-one conversation we had was profoundly meaningful and surprisingly casual. This helped set a foundation for many other things to come.

Onto Roger…Roger is a very peculiar man, but one I’ve grown to love and respect. He’s got a lot of deep layers to him, that I’m not even going to begin to tackle. Roger is someone who has seen me from the day I was a freshman to the day I graduated. He saw how I changed, struggled, and grew. He was never someone who tried to spoon feed me all the right answers, but instead tried to ask the right questions. Roger helped me look at my faith seriously and honestly. He is no longer at the BSU, but instead the “leader dude” at Wayfare Church in the Warrensburg. This is another community I’ve gotten the joy of being a part of since Sophomore year (2009). I will dearly miss Roger, and his wisdom, quirky/sarcastic humor, and mandolin skills.

Sara Johnson was my Residence Hall Director/Boss in Fitzgerald Hall and Nickerson Hall, while I was a CA in those buildings. I can’t honestly say that I was always completely open with Sara (til the last month lol). But her humble, hard-working, optimistic characteristics were an inspiration for me. I admire her persevering faith. She taught me to “Choose my ‘tude” daily. She taught me to not overload myself, but to roll with my creative inspirations. She was always a great listener and always someone I viewed as a friend just as much as a boss.

And Mark Bliss…Oh Mark. Dude, I’m gonna miss you. Jam sessions. Waiting on you to show up somewhere. Sociology classes. Solving the universe’s problems inside Java Junction. Though you may not be the most organized person, you are definitely a friend I can count on to lend a helping hand (as long as I call you spontaneously and not ahead of time lol). I admire your heart and respect you like crazy man. Best of luck to you on whatever you end up doing in life.

…like I said there are a TON of other people who’ve invested in me, loved on me, and been a huge part of my life. Every year here (and almost every semester) has been different. It’s been a blast. So thank you to everyone else. It was the people at UCM that made my college experience special and memorable.

So long UCM! So long Warrensburg! I’m gonna miss you like crazy. Seriously.

Next time I return I’ll be Alum… Weird.

You ever hear that Jesus parable about the two men praying in the temple- one, a Pharisee, thanked God for how good himself is; and the other, a tax collector, beat his chest in shame crying out to God for mercy. Jesus went on to say that it was the tax collector, not the priest, who was justified before God. Check it out–>> Luke 18:9-14

Over the last 3 or 4 year I have really tried to have a humble posture and attitude within when approaching the throne of God in prayer. Honestly, it’s not hard when I start thinking about the brokeness in my life. Most of my prayers start with (or are completely) a mixture of thanking God and asking forgiveness. The following hymn comes to mind:

I will not boast in anything: no gifts, no power, nor wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ; His death and resurrection. “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us”

This part I am not ashamed of me, and is an attitude I will continue to live and strive for.

I however would like to pose an interesting twist or thought, based on something I occasionally recognize in myself. What about those times when I nonchalantly brag about “boasting in God”? As if to say I am better than the next person because I acknowledge the awesomeness of God (pst. even the demons do that- Matthew 8:28-31).

What about the times when I go through the motions  or ritualize a prayer intro? What about those times when I’m not honest with God? When I feed him half-hearted praises born out of frustration(s) and confusion.

We all do it to some extinct. Lately, I’ve been noticing it in the speech of my fellow friends and believers and in occasional moments in my prayer-life. If you are the type of person who wants to combat this form of pride, good luck. This a muddy water to travel through. On the one hand the person may be verbally boasting about God in the most elaborate and convincing way they can think of. On the other, the depths of their heart is revealed in the manner and body language they communicate. Sometimes it’s painfully obvious. For me, it’s pretty easy to tell when someone means what they say. I just see it in their eyes. I hear the passion in their voice. I note their humble smirk; their non-judgmental eyebrows.

Someone who boasts about how much they boast about God seems like the “teacher’s pet” version of Christians. They can say all the right things, and sweet talk the Teacher. But something about how they condescendingly interact with their classmates, makes the Teacher a little weary of trusting every drop of flattery they utter (though they may continue to get gold stars). I find it interesting that in elementary school, its can be cute when little kids suck up. However in college, professors hate it.

As we mature in our faith, we strive to become more humble and more reliant on what God puts on our hearts. Though it is good to lift up God’s name and worship His being, I challenge you (& myself) to make it more than just words. I hope it is a true reflection of your heart and mind.

Jesus said (in a number of different ways),

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me….you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.Mark 15:1-20

(WARNING!! This is a loaded post. Brace yourself, because I’m about to go all over the place.)

So much of my life gets caught up in movements, in ideas, in moral values. I think it’s safe to say that most people around me get caught up too. It’s a certain religious belief, or  a sociological theory, or the viewpoint that ‘being gay is okay’; it’s critiques on society’s increasing reliance on technology; it is  “for or against” a bureaucratic society at large and in everyday life; it’s capitalism or socialism, pro-life or pro-choice, conservative or liberal, radical or moderate, Pepsi or Coke… this list could go on for a long time.

In my everyday life I am confronted with issues in our world, and a large part of me feels incline/encouraged to choose sides. In the midst of all this chaos, may I ask, who is right? What is truth? Who among us can reveal truth in a genuine and humble manner? Those are questions many (including myself) often wonder? I don’t know anyone who does not, deep down, want to know truth.

I often wish I could just be able to sit in the presence of God, and listen to Him audibly explain the mysteries and depths of his kingdom, and of the world. Most Christians will roughly say (and I’m not necessarily denying this) that the Bible emphatically explains the heart of God; and his heart/Word was personified through Jesus (being both God and man simultaneously). Jesus himself had quite a number of things to say about truth. Once he said “I am the way, the truth, the life; and no one comes to the father except through me.” Another time Jesus told Pontius Pilate (the Roman Governor of Judea at the time),”You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate’s response (much like many of us) was, “What is truth?”.

Many of you know where I stand, and what things I have stood up for (if not feel free to ask). However I must confess, it is very easy for me to get caught up in day-to-day discussions (which are not necessarily bad) without keeping into account what (I believe) truth is. It’s easy for me to get into arguments with people about human rights, sociological theories, and musical taste; based on my personal opinions. And it is even easier for me to try to persuade people to believe the way I do. But what do my opinions matter? Do they really hold that much weight? Do they convey any truth? In the context of pursuing truth, how I go about pursuing truth is going to look a little different from how my neighbor pursues truth. Are all these paths righteous? That is not for me to determine. But who am I to judge how someone else pursues truth, even if it is inherently wrong? Who am I to judge is someone wants to ignore truth? These are hard questions to cope with, because it is very easy for me (and others) to scrutinize the journeys of others. We all ask the same big questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? What direction should I take? We just seem to react to these LARGE questions in an infinite amount of ways. In the context of this truth journey, even though I stumble a lot my focus and underlining goal is grow closer to God, and to know/love him better. Given that most journey’s are defined by the object or person being sought after, my journey is defined by God (Father-Spirit-Son). How I’ve gone about that journey, seeking after Him, isn’t necessarily a suggested way or anywhere close to the ‘universally perfect way’ of seeking after God (truth). I also don’t believe there is one cookie-cutter path we should all adhere to. If we are in the pursuit of righteousness (which is only attained through divine grace), and more so truth, then God will guide our individual journey’s so that we can each understand the depths of his love.

I don’t really have a big conclusion or theory to wrap this post up. However I will say this: if I am going to pursue Jesus (truth), I want to pursue it in a loving and humble way. If I have ever tried to convey my opinions or convictions in a contradictory way, I am sincerely apologetic. My heart aches for the injustices and self-righteous judgements I imposed on my friends and peers. The best way I know how to right my wrongs is to show love for the people I come in contact with from here on out. The grace that I’ve been given by God is far greater than anything I deserve; and for me to misrepresent that love Christ has instilled in me, is wrong. So whatever that looks like as I continue my journey with Christ, I can’t predict. I just know  I want to take every step with love in my heart.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

This is my Sociology paper for my Sociology Senior Capstone class. I put a lot of effort into it, and I figured it would be blog appropriate (even though I have never posted anything this academic before). If you feel inclined, I’d love to hear your comments and critiques!

How would one describe the hipster culture? It is a post-modern counter-culture that obsesses on ironic individuality, indie and folk music, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel, coffee shops, fair-trade merchandise, and a hodgepodge of vintage fashion trends. Wallace-Wells of the New York Sun writes: “there are the unlikely beards, sure, but there’s also the unusual fusion of earnestness and irony, the religious zeal about creativity and cool, and the bourgeois experiment in slumming”[i]. In a lot of ways this culture adopts the trends of its counter-culture predecessors: the beats, hippies, punks, and grunge.[ii] What is odd is that most people who ascribe to these cultural symptoms won’t even admit to being a “hipster”.[iii] That is because the very essence of hipsterdom resolves around denying any sort of umbrella label by the mainstream (Western modernism). At the same time hipsters try to pull off expressions of individuality while embracing obvious ironic inauthenticities. Even the name- hipster- implies some sort of derogatory tone. Yet in the midst of outward denial by the masses, there is a growing trend in hipsterdom that cannot be denied or ignored.[iv] This essay is an attempt to untangle this complex culture’s fashion, music and lifestyle preferences from the angles of race, class and gender; and offer a critique through a sociological lens.

The gender lines previously defined by Western modernism are increasingly being bent to suit the social agenda of post-modern practitioners. As I mentioned earlier, the hipster culture is a sub-culture wave of an increasingly post-modern society. A large part of gender differentiation within the hipster culture is expressed aesthetically. A typical male hipster can be seen displaying some of the following physical appearance: tight-fitted jeans (i.e. “skinny jeans”) of assorted saturated colors, Toms or moccasins, tattoos, a plain v-neck t-shirt, flannel shirts, a large or messy beard, fixed-gear bikes, wool cardigans, suspenders, second-hand t-shirts, and large glasses. A typical female hipster may express her avatar by dawning large flower headbands, sandals or Toms, vintage sun dressers, tattoos, un-shampooed hairstyles, assorted scarves, large glasses, v-neck t-shirts, vests, leggings, and even skinnier jeans. Hipsters cross recent modernism (1990s-200s) gender roles in a few distinct ways. For males, the tight fitted clothing and presumptively feminine accessories (earrings, scarves, hand bags, etc.) become much less uncommon. In a lot of ways, the hipster flavor of male fashion looks similar to the stereotypical image of a homosexual or metrosexual male. For females, stereotypically masculine things like large tattoos and un-shampooed hair become widely accepted (and even encouraged). This entanglement of modernism’s gender expectations is a reflection on postmodernism’s rejection of expected gender behavior. Hipster culture, and post-modernity as a whole, suggests that genders should be free to express themselves by picking and choosing that with which they most identify. Ironically by doing so, hipsters conform to generating new gender norms relative to their own culture. Though feminist and existential[v] undertones root deep within the hipster culture, they still can’t seem to fully escape the modernist patriarchal behaviors it seeks to move away from.

One thing that is painfully obvious is the lack of ethnic diversity within the hipster demographic. iii Though most hipsters will claim to be anti-racist and accepting of all racial ethnicities, it is relatively peculiar how the population is mostly made up of Caucasian folk. However I think this trend extends beyond race, and also into the realm of class. Not only are most hipsters Caucasian, but most also come from a middle class background. Why is hipsterdom so appealing to the middle class white youth? I think it is a similar reasoning Wilkins[vi] pointed out. Being middle-class white pigeon-holes one to being boring (“vanilla”). In a subconscious attempt to escape from the possibility of being inherently un-cool, middle-class white youth are clinging to cultures that portray them in an edgier light. Though not as extreme as the goths, hipsters pose a reaction that looks like a contemporary mix between 1950s beat poets[vii] and fashion-forward bohemians. One of their biggest aims is to separate themselves from the institutional cooperate-world. John Mayer (who I’m fairly certain is ironically not a hipster) pretty accurately describes the general attitude of a hipster’s view on society and politics:

“Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change.”[viii]

By reading these lyrics, one might get the sense that being a hipster means there is an uncomfortable paradox of apathy and hope. This is very true of hipsters. One is likely to find them a lot in coffee shops, at parks, and in art galleries discussing political and social frustrations, and how they need to change. However, much like its existential roots[ix], these ideas and opinions rarely translate into action. Instead, hipsters would rather play a passive role; one which allows them to party their societal sorrows away. iii These nonchalant, detached reactions to life’s issues are a self-inflicting attempt to keep an exotic (and likable) reputation and do away with the stereotypical boring middle-class whiteness.

A common complaint about hipsters is that they are too argumentative; and come off as self-absorbent elitists. One of the biggest reasons hipsters come off as defensive and argumentative in conversation, is because they want to be separate from the norms of Western modernity.  Haddow describes it well by saying:

“We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.” iii

This generation of youth has grown up in an American society that is becoming increasingly dependant on electronic-communication (texting, e-mail, online chat, etc.). In reaction to modernism’s tendency to compartmentalize and label ideas and cultures, hipsters are separating themselves from a more pragmatic way of life. Ironically this effort towards authenticity via individual freedom portrays them as separatists—which is the very thing they are striving to not be.

This brings up the biggest criticism of hipsters and at-large, postmodernism: authenticity. One of the most notable characteristics of hipsters is their embrace of paradoxes and ironic inauthenticities. For example, one might find a hipster wearing a $30 “vintage” t-shirt from Urban Outfitters, sitting on an eco-friendly fixed-gear bicycle, while thumbing through new applications on their iPhone. Aims at authenticity— extremely over-priced vintage t-shirts (average t-shirt cost at Urban Outfitters is about $25), an extremely mainstream cell phone product, and eco-friendly transportation—seem to miss the target by a long shot. By the same token, hipsters and post-modernists claim to be okay with inconsistent ironies. They recognize these paradoxes as social facts of contemporary life[x]. However, this is also why postmodernism has yet to be accepted beyond the current younger generation (under 30). Modernism and postmodernism have opposing definitions of authenticity. Modernists can’t seem to accept these hypocrisies as authentically valid. Whereas postmodernists want to borrow an assortment of entities to collage together a new entities[xi]. Take for example, the music scene. The current popular choice of music for hipsters is indie folk, which is the blend of ambient electronica beats and bluegrass folk music. If one recognizes these odd mixtures as an art form, that is one thing. But to call them authentic is entirely false. Authenticity implies a budding level of originality. It is not stealing a mixture of things and calling it something new. In that regard, there is very little that is truly authentic in this world. Hipsters and postmodernists have accepted that nothing is completely authentic, and so then move forward with creating from the wide array of existing entities available. It’s a “new” spin on creativity.

So is this post-war counter-culture, hipsters, a sign of the decline of Western Modernity or the rise of a postmodern revolution?[xii] I think neither and, at the same time, both. Rather I think it is a transformational stage from Western Modernism to American Postmodernism. Hipsters are moving into more postmodern ideas and social movement, but they still embody, by way of being separatists, some modernism tendencies. Since postmodernism in essence is the rejection of modernism, hipsters are not completely postmodern. Instead hipsters are part of a greater outcry for social change away from Western modernity.


[i] Wallace-Wells, Benjamin. “Pulp Sociology.” The New York Sun, March 14, 2008.

[ii] Lorentzen, Christian. “Why the Hipster Must Die.” Time Out New York, May 30,       2007.

[iii] Haddow, Douglass. “Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization.” Adbusters, July 28, 2008.

[iv] O’Connor, Maureen. “Sociology Proves That Hipsters Hate Hipsters Most.” http://gawker.com/5633219/sociology-proves-that-hipsters-hate-hipsters-most

[v] Nietzsche. Friedrich. On The Genealogy of Morals. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House Inc., 1967.

[vi] Wilkins, Amy C. . Wannabes, Goths, and Christians: The Boundaries of Sex, Style, and Status. 1 ed. University of Chicago Press, 2008.

[vii] van Elteren, Mel. “The Subculture of the Beats: A Sociological Revisit.” Journal of American Culture 22, no. 3 (1999): 71-99.

[viii] John Mayer, “Waiting on the World to Change,” Continuum, 2006, Columbia Records.

[ix] Cox, Gary. How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip, and Stop Making Excuses. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009.

[x] Allan,Kenneth. Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2006.

[xi] Rose, William D.. “Postmodern American Sociology: A Response to the Aesthetic Challenge.” Contemporary Sociology 35, no. 2 (2006): 187-189.

[xii] McLaughlin, Linden D.. “Transforming worldviews: An anthropological understanding of how people change.” Christian Education Journal 7, no. 2 (2010): 493-500.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the crescendoing academic buzz on social media, texting, and other means of technological communication. We’ve talked about it on more than one occasion in Sociology and Philosophy classes. I’m not gonna lie. I’m very social media-ified. I have Facebook, a MySpace Music page, An Official Music Website, A Facebook Music Page, a Twitter, and a WordPress account. Wow, writing all that down seems a little much. But that is the culture I’ve been engulfed in. Not gonna lie though; I think I use all of these (except for maybe Twitter) as a means for promotions for events I am involved in (my Music, UCM Housing, etc.). As much as I loath the inauthentic cyber-reality of social media, I recognize that it can be pretty useful in advertising for events. Call me old school, but I often long for the return of word of mouth. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that telling someone word-of-mouth about an event or activity creates a MUCH higher likelihood that they will attend.

But beyond promotional endeavors, why do we like social media? I know all the conventional answers- “Because it helps me communicate with my friends better”, “I get to keep up with my long distance friends”, blah blah blah etc. But is that really the answer? Or is our American culture just increasingly becoming more standoffish. Our physical comfort zones, as big as they are seem to keep expanding. Even though we long for personal interaction, we settle for cyber interaction (including text) because it’s convenient, and because we (for some odd reason) feel more at liberty to say whatever we want behind the cover of a computer screen or a cell phone.

Quite hypocritically, I have noticed myself becoming increasingly engulfed in generating cyber-popularity- having lots of Texts, Tweetbacks, WordPress stats, Facebook notifications, etc. I don’t like to talk about it, because it’s really quite pathetic. It’s almost like the inner-high-school Jordan, that was uber concerned with impressing people and getting attention, is being sneakily brought out in the cyber world. There are days, where I won’t get a notification or a text, and I get this strange guilty feeling of loneliness. This is getting really pathetic, writing all this down (I hate vulnerability). I’m really tempted just delete all of it (again…yes I’ve done this before), and live as un-cybernetic as possible. I wonder how many people are also (un)secretly obsessed with their cyber popularity. I wonder how many people would be willing to admit it, and take the steps to fix it.

So, do I hate technology? No. I have a Mac. I just don’t like how my generation is becoming increasingly communicatively relient on it.

Am I becoming Amish? No, but I do admire them.

Here’s the continued delemna, and connection to the first paragraph. I keep needing social media and texting for promotional endeavors. I keep telling myself, it pays numerical (unfortunately not financial) dividends. So I press on, and I pray that I, and furthermore my friends, start becoming (de)progressively concerned with other people’s ‘actual lives’ than our cyber popularity.

“The authentic self is the soul made visible.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach

just a few thoughts I’ve been having lately:

– Tennessee barbeque rules. well actually, pretty much any food here rules.

– I never want to live in Montgomery, AL. Too much racism there…on both sides.

– I feel like I have an explosion of words to say, but no way to eloquently and cohesively saying them.

– Everyday for the past month seems like a new set of crossroads. All kinds of decisions being made that could potentially be life changing. That is both exciting and scary. I’m  sure most everyone around my age goes through something similar.

– I feel like I’m just continuing down one path (Student Affairs, working with college students as a career), just waiting for God to snatch me up and thow me on a new path. I mean I like college students and student life stuff. Just don’t know if I’m cut out for it long-term. I’d rather be playing music for a living and doing mission work in foreign countries and making t-shirts that raise money for kids in Africa. blah….but I continue on, with a blindfold over my eyes and a forceful hand on my back and an eager ear waiting for the whispering voice of direction.

– Life is hard. For Everyone. Why not ease the load for someone else?…that is if you can handle carrying anymore yourself.

– There are many days when I doubt whether people truly love me. I can see it in their eyes. Hear it in their voice. It’s not hard to tell if someone authentically loves you for who you are. Whether out of pride or shyness, I’m not one to beg for friendship. But, community and friendship so valuable. It provides a sense of home and belonging. I don’t really have a “home”. I’ve moved around from place to place all my life. They say home is where the heart is. Well, I’m not really sure where my heart is.

– I don’t plan on dating this year. Not enough time. I’m leaving town for who-knows-where in a year. Not to mention I’m broke. Ladies, I’m off-limits. Sorry.

– I want to start writing songs again. Unfortunatley, I have writers block (refer back to bullet point 3).

– I want to learn more Blues chords

-I need to read my Bible more. seriously.

-I also need to excercise more. Me and Sam are going to do P90X this semester. Sixpack? naah.

– Sometimes I get frustrated when no one reads this blog. I see the stats. But then, I think “Well, I really hate promoting this blog. Promoting is so vain, and overrated. Plus, I’m more vulnerable on this blog than I am in real life. What to do..”

-Thank God for music, and how it can communicate volumes to me every day. And thank God for skilled lyricists.

This summer has been good for a lot of reasons. I’ve gotten to work with some really awesome and dedicated individuals. I’ve learned so much personally and professionally.

But, all good things come to an end. And to be honest, I really miss my friends. My Real Friends. I miss having people to hang out with. I spend a lot of time alone in my apt or walking around Emporia. I miss the constant possibility of social interaction. I miss having deep 1-1 conversations over a cup of Java. I miss the Burg.

…August 4th I look forward to you, and a final lap around this college track.