Josh Garrels: A Different Ethic and Sustenance for my Soul

“There’s a place, a garden for the young
To laugh and dance in safety among
The shimmering light in the garden of peace
But steal a bite and paradise is lost
With darkened hearts we didn’t count the cost
Forgot all we left behind
Life picks up speed before you know
We’re holding on for dear life, Oh Lord
We’re too proud to turn back now
One day it all falls down
It breaks our heart and it breaks our crown
Brings us down where we see
It’s gonna be alright
Turn around and let back in the light
And joy will come
Like a bird in the morning sun
And all will be made well once again”
-Josh Garrels, “Morning Light”

There’s something really cool about finding an artist long before he’s famous and watching him grow, improve, and ultimately “make it.” About ten years ago, when I was a college student at Anderson University, some friends and I used to trek over to Muncie and the surrounding areas to see a Ball State dropout play shows in coffee shops, churches, and bars. His name was Josh Garrels. Belted out of his tall, lanky frame, his music blended several styles: blues, folk, hip hop, and bluegrass. Watching him play seemed like a mystical experience. His songs poetically play with the beauties of creation alongside the corruption of our culture and politics, while calling us to Kingdom ethics and intimate love. The lyrics are passionate and intelligent, overtly spiritual without being preachy or didactic.

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A Consistently Pro-Life Ethic

I wanted to expand upon and provide some clarification on something I said in my recent essay that argued we should let Dzhokhar Tsnaraev live. In that essay, I wrote the following: “Political issues that involve taking a human life are usually complicated, but I still land on the side of finding ways to sustain life even if, like in this case, a person has done awful things and hurt many.” I mean this in the fullest sense, and I think this consistency across issues is tragically lacking in the American two-party system.

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The Ethics of Memoir Writing

In a publishing world that includes the likes of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, facts, speculation, and imagination can be so blended into one book, which causes more than a little confusion and controversy. Nowhere is that concern more necessary or weighty than in the memoir genre. One looks for memoir in the nonfiction section of bookstores and libraries, but as Thomas Larson points out The Memoir and the Memoirist, memoir is not nonfiction in the same sense that autobiography is. Dialogue has to be recreated from memory, and places and characters need dramatization in order to satisfy the reader. To borrow from Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story, memoir is “composed,” rather than an arbitrary collection of facts thrown together chronologically. This blend of dramatized nonfiction is messy work for both writer and reader. Which personas are trustworthy ones?

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