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Preview: so indie it's embarrassing

so indie it's embarrassing

missional life, marriage, fatherhood, film, music, youth ministry, culture, theology. It's the all best music with the worst production value.

Updated: 2018-03-05T17:48:48.617-08:00


What Have I Been Doing?



Don Miller and I have a book coming out this winter (February now) and that has consumed a tons of my time. I've also got contributed a chapter in The Center for Youth Ministry's upcoming It Happens: Dealing with Everyday Stuff in Youth Ministry, been an writer and editor for Augsburg/Fortress' re:form Traditions project all the while spitting up a cirrciuluum a month for the venerable Devozine and the good folks over at Upper Room.

In the meantime I'm trying to get all this transferred over to a new website for all my writing and speaking stuff which I'll link to soon enough.

So, that's the update. Nose around the archives if you like (there may be something there worth reading) and if you can't find something there go get the TPB of Sixth Gun. My new favorite comic! I'm obsessed.

Peace and love,

Film School: Where The Wild Things Are


This movie polarizes people, either you love it or you hate it. We kind of felt that when we did it during Film School, however the themes are so rich and resonate I have to commend it to you. Part of me wants to add weeks to some of the notes because there is just so much there. Anyway, I loved this movie and think you will too. But remember - it's not for kids;)


Where The Wild Things Are Week 1
Where The Wild Things Are Week 2
Where The Wild Things Are Week 3

After the Flood - Taking the Long View


A week ago today Nashville endured the worst flood in her history. Lives were lost, families were displaced and property was destroyed. I live in one of the neighborhoods most affected and, though me and mine came through fine comparatively, the whole experience has left me disoriented.

I mean, I'm a youth minister and I have spent the last 5 summers traveling to the Mississippi Gulf Coast helping that community rebuild after hurricane Katrina. But now, I live in the place where youth groups want to travel to and volunteer to help rebuild. They have become me. There has become here. And it's put some things in perspective for me as I've watched the relief work unfold around me. If people are serious about helping in crisis situations like this one, it is critical that we take the long view. I understand the draw and emotion that goes into working for the first 1-7 days after a disaster. However, what is more difficult - and just as (if not more) necessary - is a commitment to long term relief.

One of my friends in the neighborhood used to do emergency disaster coordination for the Red Cross (He gave me the diagram embedded above) . He explained that after a disaster there is a honeymoon/hero period where everyone wants to jump in and help. This takes shape in everything from, neighbors helping neighbors and telethons to Sean Penn driving his boat down to New Orleans and pulling people out of the water. However, following this brief phase of volunteer energy and community cohesion is the steep drop off of disillusionment. You can hear this when people opine, "Are we still talking about _____?" or, "Why do they still need help?" Basically, the disaster becomes a nuisance because it prevents us from returning to normal life. But what the affected region is going to need most (and I've seen this first hand in Mississippi) is a sustained commitment to relief work that will bring the victims through grief and disillusionment and into a new future of reconstruction. This can't be done in a weekend and it can't be done alone. And as emotionally taxing as it on everyone from the volunteers to the victims, it proclaims resurrection in the face of tragedy.

It's this kind of long term commitment that I wonder about as volunteers pour into where I live in Bellevue. Are we as a city (and as faith communities) taking the long view regarding this flood? Are we preparing to walk our people and citizens through the disillusionment and challenge them to act in spite of it? In Nashville we do trendy well and this once-in-500-years event will be the litmus test of the character of our city. Will we stick by each other and walk the long road of reconstruction? I actually believe so. I've been impressed with Nashville so-far and think we've got it in us (even though I fear sometimes we don't).

So, when you hear disillusionment setting in around or within you speak to it directly. It's a natural place to end up, but not a sufficient place to stay. And as much as I hate the way my neighborhood has become a virtual parking lot because of all the volunteers going in and out, I kind of hope it doesn't subside anytime soon.


Status Report



With the work on the book moving forward I'm embarrassed to admit that So Indie It's Embarrassing has suffered the way she has. So, in an attempt to right that wrong I'm going to put a lot of content up over the next 2 weeks (a few film schools and some ideas I've been kicking around) and get this thing back on track.

Thanks for reading at all and may grace and peace be with you,

FIlm School: Food Inc.


If Upton Sinclair madea documentary film it would have been like this one. Food Inc. pulls the veil off the practices and policies of the food industry and sounds the loudest and most convincing alarm yet that it's time for a change. After watching the movie it's hard not to agree. But what's best about Food Inc. is the way it energizes and empowers it's viewers to act instead of simply demonizing what is clearly a broken system.

We had a power three weeks with this film but had to recognize that A.) Teenagers armed with compelling information about the wrongness of a system can turn into d-bags quickly. We warned ours to watch that. B.) The applications for teens can be tricky because they don't have control over most of their food choices. We worked for some good ones in part 3 of our study. C.) If you take kids through this keep in mind that they may prematurely to conclude that "business is bad". This is not true. Part 3 is all about business as a sacred activity and I think this point needs to be made and maintained throughout the movie. Otherwise we can fall prey to same dehumanization we want to decry these same companies of and that's not the Jesus way.

Also check out the movie's website for great information and other study guides. Let me know how it goes and bon appetit;)


Food Inc. Week 1
Food Inc. Week 2
Food Inc. Week 3

Film School: Back to the Future


I love this movie and the month we spent studying it was gangbusters. The film is so fun and really holds up 25 years later (wow - 25 years!) All sorts of good stuff about honoring your parents, not repeating past mistakes as part of redemption and the glories of rock-n-roll.

If you use it we broke the movie up into roughly 30 minute sections and went four weeks.
If you use it, let me know how it goes;)


BttF Week 1
BttF Week 2
BttF Week 3
BttF Week 4

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Komodo Dragon


Have a merry Christmas and get your action adventure on!
I will say the climax (even for all it's Monty Python aesthetic) kind of thrilled my kids on the scary side - and they were in the movie;)
So, keep your young'ins close.


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Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Komodo Dragon from Dixon Kinser on Vimeo.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Komodo Dragon: Trailer 2


Well the wait is finally over!
Our magnum opus, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Komodo Dragon premieres right here at So Indie It's Embarrassing on Christmas Day, 2009.
Here's our final trailer to whet your appettie.



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FIlm School: Iron Man


Who doesn't love this movie?!
Great conversation about technology, redemptive repurposing and how one defeats evil.
Bringing in some of the information on the material from "The One Dimensional Man" is helpful. Linking to the Wikipedia article here" for for a synopsis (I mention it in Week 2). This one makes a neat companion piece to Wall-E. Do 'em together if you like;)

Peace and love,

Iron Man: Week 1
Iron Man: Week 2
Iron Man: Week 3
Iron Man: Week 4

Film School: Wall-E


Love. This. Movie.
Did it last advent for FIlm School and it just soared. Great conversations about the nature of technology and what it means to be really human. (Hint - the robots are more human than the people).
On two of the weeks I reference a famous Wendell Berry article entitled "Why I'm Not Going to Buy a Computer". You can find it here.

Leave a comment below and let me know how it goes if you use this one.

Peace and love,

Wall-E: Week 1
Wall-E: Week 2
Wall-E: Week 3

Have a Missional Halloween


Hope everyone has a great day on this October 31 wether you dress up or not.
Here is a link to a post I did a few years ago about why Halloween may in fact be the most God-ly of holidays and not the most God-less.

I re-read it today and thought it appropriate to put out there again this Halloween.

Peace and happy almost All Saints day,

The Conservative Bible and Syncretism


Youth Ministry is a missionary endeavor. The tools, techniques and philosophy are more akin to the work Christian missionaries have done over the centuries than anything else. As I’ve presented this approach over the two very helpful categories have been contextualization and syncretism.

Contextualization is the practice that missionaries employ when introducing a new culture to the Gospel (for better and for worse). Here the gospel is communicated using the vocabulary, language, signs and symbols of the host people. This has been the practice of the church for thousands of years (again for all it’s good and bad implications) and will continue for a thousand more. It is the reason any of us came to faith (or didn’t in some cases –jeez enough with the caveats;) and it is always to be the work and vision of the church. Examples of contextualization abound from English Bibles to the very term “Christian” itself.

Syncretism, on the other hand, is when the host culture changes the Gospel message to fit its own prejudices, misbehaviors and dangerous attitudes. Here the gospel doesn’t redeem or change the culture but the culture changes the gospel. As of late it has been hard to find a purely academic and recent example of syncretism - until last week.

On Monday the Tennessean ran this article on the front page. It is about a new translation of the Bible that is being developed called The Conservative Bible. Yes, this is a Bible that will finally get back to the pure message of Jesus by eliminating all of the liberal stories and translations that mire edgy versions like the NIV.

Think I’m joking? Think again. Because stories like the one in John 7 about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery seem too liberal they are excised. Don’t like the ambiguities and implications of Jesus encounter with the rich young ruler? You’re not alone – the Conservative Bible will smooth out all the rough edges by altering the wording of the story in order to communicate what it “really” means.

And that’s kind of the thing underneath all this. The reason this Bible is syncretistic is that it wants to unapologetically conform the message of the Bible to its pre-conceived agenda. The story of God’s redemption of the cosmos is pressed into the mold of a particular groups expression of conservatism. It is a project where the culture is changing the gospel and not the other way around.

Now, don’t we all bring our prejudices to the text and try to read our agenda into it? Or course. We are people and none of us can see this objectively – heck were not supposed to. But, when I find the places my biases are clouding the text I am want to repent and be challenged not gleefully embrace it. This why tradition and community are to be part of the interpretive processes and why I can’t see how the Conservative bible is a good idea.

So, link over, read the article for yourself and behold – syncretism!


P.S. Oh yeah and Stephen Colbert already got his hands on this one. Read the article to see how;)

No Convo?


Some thoughts about why a "conversion experience" is not what I'm shooting for as I raise my kids in faith.
Sorry to get all video heavy here in the last 3 weeks.

More words coming soon;)


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Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Komodo Dragon: Trailer 1


Four months after we first rolled cameras, I've got a trailer cut together.
Once we get the effects shots together we can premiere this baby.

I'm proud of the kids and our work indeed!


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Holy Orders!


Oh yeah....
They never talked about this kind pastoral scenario in seminary.

This made me laugh so hard and so loudly that my kids demanded to know what I was laughing at. I didn't know how to explain it to them;)

What would you have said?

Insert your wisdom or snarky one liner here:
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Why Twitter Marks the End of Church Pews


It is my opinion that when Christian’s gather for worship the rituals they undertake function as a kind of training. What they do together gives shape, form and imagination to the kind of people they are trying to become. This is as true for the obvious elements of Christian worship (preaching content, song selection, giving, confession, prayer for the church and the world etc.) as it is for the more oblique ones (room orientation, seating configurations, vestments etc.). It is these oblique ones that I think will be most affected by a technology like Twitter.Twitter is, of course, a relatively new technology that allows the user to update a personal web feed with what they are doing at any given moment. It provides a new and interesting way to communicate to be sure, but it is also indicative of the larger culture trends toward virtual relationships. These are the kind of relationships that are facilitated in spaces like MySpace and facebook and use email and twitter their means communication. These media make it is possible to converse with many people, all over the globe on any given day but never look at another human being in the face. Even worse, these technologically based relationships can actually supersede the real thing (ever had somebody ignore you while you were talking to them to respond to a text?)All this brings me to my point.As our culture moves into more and more virtual forms of communication (for a scathing critique of this reality see the film Wall-E) will the church’s practice of meeting together become increasingly both counter cultural and crucial. Christianity is a living way of life that requires relationship with other human beings. The kind of formation we seek (I am a Christian so I put myself in this camp) happens most authentically in community when face to face with other human beings. As more and more technologies crop up that draw us away from looking at other people in the face the more important the churches practice of relating to other people “in person” will become.And this is why Twitter could very well be the death knell of the church pew. We all know that worshipping in pews requires very little face-to-face interaction. Yes we subvert this with some of our practices (passing the peace etc.), but for the majority of our community training we only see the back of our neighbor’s head. Will the increased need for face-to-face time in worship in response to our cultures increasingly virtual relationships finally call for the end of pews?We need to look at one another and one of the technologies working against us is the church pew. Architecture is one of the intangibles of our Christian formation and its augmentation can really make a difference. Could this be the time?It’s not like the pew has been around since the time of Jesus or anything. It’s usage came into vogue as another communication technology rose to prominence – the printing press (ever notice how a Basilica’s pews are shaped like the layout of a book?) Perhaps its demise at the hand of another communication technology is just the right kind of poetic beauty. Or is it irony.What do you think?Peace,D[...]

Film School: Planet of the Apes


This is a movie with a capital "M"!
The 1968 version of Planet of the Apes is a tour de force. As timeful as it is timeless (zoom in shots anyone), this movie's influence is nearly unmatched.

Evokes great discussions about the relationship between faith and science, power and religion and what it means to be a human being. Make sure you mention the fact that the Civil Rights Movement, Space Race and counter culture revolution of the late 1960's were all in play and show up on screen as the movie tells it's story. When Heston tells the young ape to "Never trust anybody over 30" it is an ironic reminder about his roll as a counter culture icon when the movie was made.

When I did the film with my group , I took one week to lecture on the history of Christianity and science and the way they are not suppose to fight like they do but modernity wouldn't have it any other way.

Good stuff here. Enjoy!


Planet of the Apes Week 1
Planet of the Apes Week 2
Planet of the Apes Week 3
Planet of the Apes Week 4

The State of So Indie It's Embarrassing


Ok, it's been two months, what gives Dixon.
Here's what's going on in the world of Dixon Kinser and So Indie It's Embarrassing:

I wrapped principal photography on Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Komodo Dragon. The kids and I are in post production now and all my blogging time the last two months has been filled up with movie making. Still planning for a release this month!

My book is gonna happen - probably!
I spent the lion share of my writing energy crafting a kick booty (if I do say so myself) proposal and sample chapter of my youth ministry book called (for now) the New Adventures of Jesus. I'm really proud of what I've written so far and feel like I finally found my voice. We're shipping it around to 5 publishers next week. I'm hopeful.
I've been trying to get all the content of so indie it's embarrassing moved over to my website at However, Apple changed the iWeb software so I'm kind of in a holding pattern. My agent recommended the big switch over and so far it's been a big bust. You can also follow me on twitter now as part of the same Dixon Kinser media empire consolidation. Yeeha!

Yeah, I went out of town and took time off too. Sue me.

I also got new glasses.

Look for a Film School on Planet of the Apes tomorrow!

What to do with the Psalms


**I’ve been doing some teaching on the Psalm’s lately and this little observation has become a go to example for how to understand what kind of “song” a Psalm is. Everyone from teens to septuagenarians seem to respond well to it. Use it if you like.**

The Psalms are such a wonderful part of the scriptures and yet they can be difficult to access. They are songs, poems, laments and anthems but our inability to connect with them sometimes stems from (I think) our casual relationship with music.

People in the United States have a largely therapeutic relationship with our music. We listen to music because it makes us feel a certain way. Living in music city I see this more than I would like. Pop is crafted to go down smooth (can anyone say “don’t bore us get to the chorus”) and that’s just the way we like.

This is problematic when we related it to the Psalms because they don’t make us feel good. They don’t follow a four-chord chorus that resolves nicely at he end and they are also not available for down load on iTunes.

So what kind of songs are they?

I think the Psalms are like this kind of tune I sing to my kids:

“Clean up. Clean up.
Everybody, everywhere.
Clean up. Clean up.
Everybody do your share.”

When you sing a song like this in a living room full of toys there is a not-so-subtle expectation: the singer expect the listener to join them in cleaning up the toys. This song implicates the listener and demands action from them and at the same time. It lays claim on your future and really dares you to ignore its call.

The Psalms are like this kind of song. They implicate us in Kingdom living. They are meant to be heard as a call to action for this is what they are. When I read the Psalms this way, I am challenged but also enormously helped. Finally, I feel like I know what to do with them.

Film School: Cars



This is a one week discussion guide for the movie Cars. We wrote it for a family movie night so it has questions for kids and families as well as deeper questions for teens and adults. I love this movie and if you want to talk about anything from dreaming dreams that matter to creative non-violence (that's right!) Cars is a great choice. Enjoy.


Cars: Discussion Guide

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Komodo Dragon: Cameras will roll!


(image) Tomorrow marks the first day of principal photography on the Kinser family's action adventure sequel: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Komodo Dragon. We've spent the past year writing the story and scouting locations and the kids are about the pop they are so ready to start filming. The official plot synopsis is as follows:

"Indy and Marion race a former rival to Indonesia's hidden Temple of the Komodo Dragon. Inside is a diamond with mysterious power which legend says is guarded by a giant Komodo dragon. Those who seek it never return. Will our heroes overcome even these most treacherous of obstacles? Tune in this September to find out!"

I'm pretty stoked as well because the production values will be way up this year and it's going to test my technological abilities. Some of my friends that do professional video and TV stuff loaned me a whole bunch of higher end camera gear along with dolly tracks and lights. Likewise, our costumes are way cooler than last year (see the photo's below).

Our first sequence tomorrow is actually a stunt and will be our first use of a stunt double. This concept was hard for the kids to grasp at first, but once they did they thought the double should do lots of stuff. I explained that he needed to kept it to a minimum to keep it believable, but que sera.

Here's to a good summer of movie magic. I must admit, I love this stuff.





Theology with a Four Year Old


I am leaving tomorrow for a week of work in Mississippi (hurricane relief year four) and my daughter was with with me while I was packing this afternoon. Here is the conversation we had:

"Daddy what are you packing for."

"I'm going on a trip with the students I work with to Mississippi. About the time you were born there was a really bad storm called a hurricane that broke a lot of things where I'm going. There are some people there that lost their houses and even their families because of that storm. We are going to help them and try to make things better."

"Are you going to put the bricks back in their houses?"

"We're going to help the people that know how to do that and we'll do a lot of other things too. We're going because we're Christians and this is part of what it means to love God and love our neighbors."



"Yes, sweetie?"

"Did Jesus build our house with Legos?"

Sometimes you can only go so far with these things;)

I will be in MS for the week concluding the trip with a little Jesus Dojo in New Orleans (The one I talked about earlier).

See you in 8 days.


Film School: The Office


The Office is one of the best shows on television right now. I love it indeed.
David Dark suggests that The Office is apocalyptic in that it reveals truth in a prophetic way. I agree.
This episode made for particularly good conversation about the nature and value of that dubious category "hot".

The Office: "Prince Family Paper" Study Guide
NBC Synopsis:
Michael and Dwight spy on a rival paper company while the rest of the office gathers around to have a dispute about whether Hillary Swank is hot or not. So they can get back to work, Jim decides to end all the arguing by conducting a poll. The poll ends up a tie.


Graduation Season


I am a youth minister. It’s what I do. As such, I have the unique experience of attending multiple high school and university graduations every spring. This year alone I will watch more than 12 valedictory and salutatory addresses, hear 9 special music performances, consider the wisdom of no less than 8 guest speakers and finally listen to the names of more than 1200 students read a loud as diplomas are awarded. The hours I will spend at the ceremonies coupled with driving, parking and assorted after parties will claim the majority of hours in my workweek. Like I said, it’s what I do.But I do it all gladly and affectionately. I genuinely love the students who invite me and it’s an honor to be there. But the experience of attending someone else’s “once in a life time” several times a year always gets me reflecting. Two things this year:1.) Is the best commission to give the graduates “Follow your dreams”? This is the basic content of most graduation charges, but I always feel like, as a Christian, it’s a little hollow. Ones own self-actualization is not the ultimate expression of humanity. I watched the way high school and university education works to make us consider other people as the impediment to a life of peace when in fact they are the way towards it. The shalom of God does not come true when “your dreams are fulfilled”. It has far more to do with wholeness than happiness (we can fight abut those terms if you like) and it happens in and through a community of faith who are living out someone else’s dreams instead of their own. Now, I’m not trying to discount the way folks need to be about their created purpose. I’m all in for that. Our Creator has made us in unique ways. I’m just noticing how graduations sometimes betray a story that is more shaped by a consumer culture than anything God is doing. Even though it is “your moment seniors” don't check your discernment at the door.2.) To Name or not Name There is too much to this to fully expound on here, but there is a lot communicated when a school names the college that its graduates are attending when they get the diploma. I am not getting ready to pooh-pooh higher education or suggesting that college is not important but what I do want to critique is why we assume college is important. The narrative most of my students are offered by their schools (and indeed I was offered by my own high school) is that if you make the best grades you can, you can go to the best college you can (read best named college), then you can go to the best grad school you can, so that can make the most money you can (and reflect that prestige back on our institution). The accrual of wealth, status and class are inexorably enmeshed with the caliber of university one attends and high schools reinforce this dangerous narrative when they name where each graduate is going to school in the fall. I find this phenomenon most in the graduations of private schools but it is also to be found in the academic magnet schools that are gunning for their market share of students. The upshot of it all is that when college names are read aloud it’s not because students are going to sub-par schools. It’s because they are going to famous one and this brings me back to my point. By doing this it sends a powerful message to young parents, “You can buy success for your child”. This reality is unwittingly disguised by the North American story, which boas[...]

Film School: The Dark Knight


The movie that nailed the Zeitgeist of the year 2008. A powerful meditation on what it means to confront and defeat evil, I think everyone owes it to themselves to watch this movie and talk about it.

In hind sight I wish I had added some more stuff about how the Joker is really like the Satan in Job. He thinks that when the chips are down people will eat each other and he's out to prove that. Sounds an awful lot like the accuser who thinks stripping Job of everything he has will cause him to curse God.

Also, there is a repeat question in week 5 because we didn't get to it in week 4. Don't let that throw you.

Let me know how it goes if you use it.


The Dark Knight Study Guide Week 1-5