Entries with tag pop culture coffee hour .

3 Reasons I Keep Rewatching Parks and Recreation

A few weeks ago, Steve and Emma took on Game of Thrones after our summer hiatus from Y2AM’s weekly podcast, Pop Culture Coffee Hour. The episode raised a bit of controversy as some perceived that Y2AM was offering a whole-hearted endorsement of the show, and while we were quick to suggest that it’s worth watching “if you have the stomach for it,” Steve and Emma nonetheless continued with the stated purpose of PCCH, which is simply looking for Christ even in the darkest of places. For those caught in the middle of the controversy, Steve issued an apology, which you can read here.


This week, however, Christina and I teamed up for what will doubtless be a remarkably less controversial episode of PCCH, wherein we discuss one our mutual favorite shows: Parks and Recreation.  I’ve seen all seven seasons at least three times each, and honestly, I keep wanting to go back for more. Christina and I dive into some of the finer points of what makes Parks and Rec such a great show (you can listen to the full episode here), but for now, here’s three reasons why I keep coming back to the show.

  1. The Writing

I was an English major in college, and after graduating, I had the lofty idea that I was going to apply to screenwriting school. Needless to say, I didn’t get in, and so I instead pursued a life in counseling and ministry (I’m gonna go ahead and chalk that up to God having a different plan for me than I did). Regardless, I have remained a junky for great writing, particularly in television. This is the reason I love shows like Arrested Development, The Office, and 30 Rock. While AD might be my favorite of all time, Parks and Rec comes in a very close second.

It’s hard to talk about this show without noting the genius lines that each character has. As Christina and I chatted, we couldn’t help but quote the show at every opportunity we got. It’s truly amazing to me that human beings would be so creative, that they would have the potential to put together such a flawless story while also making it impeccably hilarious. If you’re going to stop and watch Parks and Rec, you can’t stop listening for two seconds, otherwise you might miss a joke.

The writing is truly a testament to the creative power of creative people, and I can’t help but sit back and marvel that God could make people so capable of making something so wonderful.

2) The Characters

This show is full of amazing humans. Actually, it’s pretty silly. The people are ridiculous. But somehow Parks and Rec takes a random group of people, throws them together in a local government job, and magic happens. Each of them is a misfit, but somehow, they belong together. When I watch, I can’t help but feel that maybe this is in someway an image of what the Church ought to be.

Everyone is unique and have plenty of disagreements, yet somehow, they are able to stick together, to be (for the most part) unwavering for one another. Too often, however, it seems the Church is not a place for such celebration of communion amidst diversity, but rather becomes yet one more place in this divided where we are all too willing to cast the first stone at people who aren’t like us. Rather than working toward the Kingdom together, we become distracted by arguments that defame other persons.

Generally speaking, in Parks and Rec, we don’t see people who disagree with one another calling into question one another’s moral standing. Of course, there are some characters in the show who are portrayed as despicable (and rightly so), but the core crew is a group of people devoted to working together not only in spite of their differences, but through their differences. It is not uniformity that makes them strong, but unity amidst diversity. If only we could learn this lesson, too.

3) The Light

Finally, I continue to come back to Parks because it’s just so darn pleasant. It’s happy. I don’t think you have to look very far to find Christ because He radiates through the warmth and love of the people who run the Pawnee Parks Department. It’s a very silly show, but doggonit, I’m so happy to find something that I know will cheer me up when I’m faced by the realities of today’s world. It’s not that such a show distracts me from the horrors of reality, but rather it gives me hope to face the horrors of today.

Parks and Rec paints a fun, joyful, light-filled vision for the possibility of communal life together. It is my hope that you’ll listen to our podcast, watch the show, and find as much hope for the future as Christina and I did.

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, homebrewer, and CrossFitter. Christian has an MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary and is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a supporter. Your contribution can help us continue the work we’re doing.

3 Things "Game of Thrones" Gets Right

After a short summer break, we’re happy to announce that our podcast, Pop Culture Coffee Hour, is back (with a new logo, too)!

To kick off our new season, Emma and I discussed Game of Thrones, which recently concluded its seventh season. You can listen to our conversation here.

Though incredibly popular, Game of Thrones can rub a lot of Christians the wrong way. Its episodes often include violent, sexual, or downright disturbing scenes. And it can seem that there’s no moral compass in the GoT universe: good characters die, bad characters thrive, and any good vs evil narrative seems cloudy, if not completely absent.

Emma and I push back on this take in our episode. Though GoT isn't appropriate for everyone (Christian and I talked about how to deal with things that are difficult or inappropriate to watch back in episode 6), we can find Christ at work even in the mixed-up world of Westeros. And we can identify some important themes that can offer a bit of encouragement and inspiration for every Christian who seeks the Kingdom.

To get the conversation started, here are three things Game of Thrones definitely gets right:

[Needless to say, spoilers ahead.]
1. Death is the Real Enemy
The title of Game of Thrones perfectly captures how the series started out: it was a gritty medieval fantasy that focused on the conflict between the great families of the land of Westeros. After the death of King Robert Baratheon upsets the tentative stability of the realm, intrigue and outright war commence. Established noble families and upstart schemers alike begin to play the “game of thrones” as they maneuver for power and, ultimately, the Iron Throne.

Yet, from the very beginning of the series, it’s clear that a malevolent force lurks in the north, beyond the Wall. While lords and ladies vie for power, the dead prepare to destroy mankind. As the seasons progress, characters like Jon Snow realize that even the winner of the “game of thrones” will ultimately lose when the White Walkers sweep south, killing all in their path.

As season 7 concludes, the warring powers face a choice: will they realize that their machinations and strategies have been distractions from the existential crisis that threatens them all?

As Snow says, “There is only one war that matters. The Great War. And it is here.”

Christians have a similar insight. Our sinful desires for fame or wealth are vain. Even a moralistic desire for good conduct, on its own, misses the mark. Our enemy is death, the oblivion that results from separation from God. 

Yet the Son of God took on flesh and became human for us. He took on our pain and loneliness and anguish, even to the point of dying on the Cross, so that we could have the true life that is properly His.

God has already won the Great War. Christ is Risen!
2. Being Good Can Cost You Dearly, and That’s Okay
Many important characters have died in the last seven seasons. Yet Game of Thrones is haunted by the memory of one man in particular: Ned Stark. 

Stark was the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. A great man and the head of one of Westeros’ most important and historic families, Ned Stark was nonetheless grounded by a firm sense of truth and justice. He consistently tried to make choices, not because they would advance his position, but because they were right.

In a dramatic turn at the end of season 1, Ned Stark is executed.

Ned is not the only Stark who is injured as a consequence of trying to do what’s right. His son, Robb Stark, chose to marry for love rather than political advantage. And it cost him his head.

Jon Snow, whom Ned Stark raised as his own son, is cut from the same cloth. He tells the truth even when it will backfire on him, he refuses to make a false oath even though it will be politically advantageous. As Snow reasoned late in season 7, “I'm not going to swear an oath I can't uphold. When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.”

Christians take a similar stand. While others may tell lies, we speak God’s true word. While others may work violence, we resolve to turn the other cheek.

When faced with the ultimate choice, Christians will even choose death rather than deny their Lord. Because we have already died in the waters of baptism and risen into new life in Christ. Even the world’s worst is nothing to fear.

3. There's Hope for Everyone
In Game of Thrones, even a noble character like Ned Stark can have a tragic flaw that leads to his undoing. Similarly, even a villainous character can have a deeper complexity that leads to his redemption.

We meet many characters that are deeply unsympathetic. Tyrion Lannister, the despised son of a powerful nobleman, is a lecher and drunk. Sandor Clegane, a knight and bodyguard to royalty, is a violent and ruthless killer.

Yet, as the series progresses, we uncover the scars that shaped these broken men. Lannister, a man of short stature whose mother died while giving birth to him, is despised by his father. Clegane, a man who bears a terrible scar on his face, has also been psychologically scarred by the violence and depravity of his older brother. 

And we soon find opportunities for these men to channel their pain into noble conduct. Lannister, an outcast who was arrested and almost killed by his family, becomes an advisor for Danaerys Targaryen, the “Breaker of Chains” and liberator of slaves. Clegane, himself the victim of abuse, becomes a protector of the downtrodden and even risks his life to help Jon Snow awaken Westeros to the dangers of the White Walkers. 

There is hope for even the lost of Westeros. And often, this hope grows out of their deepest pain.

Christians have a similar hope. St. Paul the Apostles, once a zealous persecutor of the Church, became a zealous evangelist. St. Mary of Egypt, once overcome by her lust, developed a desire for the Lord that drove her into a lifetime of repentance. St. Moses the Black, once a violent thief, resolved to take the Kingdom of God by force as he threw himself into a life of ascetic struggle.

Game of Thrones may not be suitable for every viewer, but it does present us with a complex worldview that is not always found in fantasy stories or popular television series. Its complex worldview and unexpected twists have presented some powerful themes over the past seven seasons, themes which may even help us better appreciate the drama and power of the unfolding story of salvation.

If you’d like to listen to our podcast on Game of Thrones, click here.


Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM.


Want more from Y2AMSubscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a supporter. Your contribution can help us continue the work we’re doing.


The Flash: Heroism, Villainy, and Death - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

After far too long of having nothing worthwhile to watch, my wife and I have finally gotten into a new (to us) series: The Flash.

We are only a handful of episodes in at this point, but we are loving it. It’s not some super mind-blowingly awesome show with crazy good special effects. Nor is it (at this point) a terribly compelling story with tons of twists and turns. But it’s fun.

We are watching the show because it is fun.

It’s fun to see what “the fastest man on earth” does in the span of 45 minutes. It’s cool to see what all the other “meta-humans” can do as well – so far I really like the girl who can turn any object into an explosive. That would be awesome; I would have loved that as a teenager.

Who am I kidding? I’d love it now! After all, I’ve got a used car that I can’t seem to sell…

In fact, I think this question of what one would do with superpowers is one of the reasons that stories about superheroes are so much fun. After all, we see superheroes, those who have chosen to be responsible with their powers, but we also see villains, those who have chosen to use their powers for gain.

Recently, Steve and I recorded an episode of Pop Culture Coffee Hour about the Netflix original series, Daredevil, and we discussed what life with superpowers would be like. In particular, we discussed whether we’d be heroes or villains.

Of course, I’d like to think that I would choose to do good, but perhaps I’m just kidding myself? Maybe the only reason I don’t do awful things like robbing banks is simply because I know I can’t get away with it. But if I were bulletproof? I don’t know…

Initially, this makes me think that I’m grateful that people don’t have superpowers, as if that makes questions of superheroes and supervillains irrelevant.

But it doesn’t.

With or without superpowers, each of us is capable of doing supreme good, and each of us is capable of supreme destruction.

It feels like almost every other day when I turn my iPhone, swipe over to the news feed and see that more ordinary people were killed by other ordinary people. The amount of damage that just one person can do is terrifying.

And they do it all without superpowers. They do it with something far more powerful: their very own lives.

There is something terrifyingly powerful about the idea of a person who is willing to die for the sake of death. When one’s own death is suddenly a tool in a quest for achieving a “greater good” or making a statement or serving an ideal, then one can become capable of all kinds of evil, destroying as many other lives as possible before eventually destroying one’s own.

I suppose one can imagine how someone could make the jump from the biological reality of death and turn it into a quest for meaning. Perhaps this is why we see people making names for themselves through violent acts that serve some “higher” purpose, forfeiting their lives while taking out others (even the Villain is the hero in his own story).The Villain, in order to be a good villain, must be willing to die for his cause. Total domination of the world is not for the faint of heart.

But what of the path of the Hero?

The path of the Hero is also marked by a willingness to die, but it is a willingness to die on behalf of others, to lay down one’s own life out of love for another rather than dying to serve an idolatrous obsession with a cause or an ideal.

This is the legacy of people like Mother Teresa and St. Panteleimon, people who regularly laid down their lives for the good of others long before they met death. People who profoundly impacted the world for the sake of God’s Kingdom by being willing to sacrifice their own success, their own comfort for the sake of their neighbors.

After all, we’re all going to die anyway. But what will we choose? A life-giving death or a death that only brings forth more death?

Will we be heroes? Or will we be villains?

We don’t need superpowers to be either.

Will we spend our lives ruthlessly seeking our own fulfillment? Will we dominate others through fear?

Or will we recognize that we have already died with Christ in the waters of baptism, that we can now use our lives as Christ used His, heroically laying them down for the sake of our neighbor?

Each of us stands on the brink of the great cliff of death and there are two paths off of it: one of villainy, the other of heroism. Which will you choose?

Photo Credits:

Hero: Depositphotos

Villain: Depositphotos

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.


3 Things LOST Taught Me: Pop Culture Espresso Shots

As you read our new blog series, Pop Culture Espresso Shots, expect a lot of spoilers. I mean, it’s hard to talk about pop culture artifacts in any meaningful way without talking about the plot.

But LOST went off the air in 2010. I think we’re reached the spoiler statue of limitations (it's a thing). 

So yes, there is a smoke monster.

Yes, they were all dead at the end.

No, they were not dead the whole time.

And yes, the Island was real.

The end of the series received a lot of mixed reviews. Some hated the ending, while others, like myself, loved it. And in the end, I realize that LOST was actually an extremely valuable show that taught me three important lessons:

1. Mystery Matters

One of the most popular mantras amongst jilted LOST fans is, “We deserved answers!”

To this I respond, “No. You didn’t.”

That’s the whole mystery jam.

Besides, what super great answer were you expecting?

Did that bird really say Hurley’s name? Why was the Dharma Initiative doing experiments on polar bears in the first place? Why did Jacob’s brother turn to smoke just because he went down a waterfall?

I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care. The point is, we are all actually probably a lot happier not having an answer to these things.

Don’t agree? I have one word for you.


When George Lucas decided to include a pseudo-scientific grounding for the Force, he helped destroy the Star Wars prequels by sucking the mystery right out of them. He reduced the depth and beauty of the Force to something simplistic and bland. 

When the Force became something we could define and understand, it ceased to be interesting.

Some things are simply better when shrouded in mystery because, paradoxically, that shroud helps reveal something. That some things – things like human beings and love and art – can’t be reduced to simplistic explanations; to even try would miss the point entirely.

The same goes for God, to an even greater extent.

If we can’t accept that some things in a fictional (that is to say, PRETEND) world just are what they are (i.e., a smoke monster), even if we can’t fully understand, then how can we possibly ever come to accept the reality of God existing in the real world?

Shows like LOST present us with valuable opportunity to practice the humility needed to embrace the mysterious. It’s fine to have questions. But the joy of being human in this world means sometimes having to live with questions that have no clear answers.

Embrace the mystery, folks. The alternative’s pretty boring.

2. It’s All About People

If you were too busy grumbling at the unanswered questions of LOST, then you missed out on the real point of the show: the people.

In the end, the show really has nothing to do with the smoke monster, the polar bears, or anything else on the Island. If the Island were the important thing, then there would be no need for flashbacks.

This is also why each episode in season one begins with a close-up of a character’s eye. We are being brought into their story, to see the world from their perspective.

We get glimpses into the characters’ lives because LOST is about them.

While the mystery of the Island and the larger cosmic questions surrounding LOST are interesting (and sometimes crazy), to miss out on the characters is to miss out on the whole purpose of the show.

And it’s deeply relevant for how we live our own lives. We can either get stuck in wondering why so many terrifying and strange and mysterious things happen to us…

Why did my parents divorce?

Why did I get let go from work?

Why didn’t I into the college I’ve been planning to attend since I was a kid?

…or, we can lean into the circumstances and simply embrace the people in our midst.

To quote Christian Shephard in the final moments of LOST:

“Everything that’s ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church: they’re all real, too…The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them. And they needed you.”

It’s all about people.

3. People Really Can Change

Spiritual transformation is the name of the game, folks, both in the Christian life and in LOST.

Each of the characters arrives on the Island with a past that haunts them. They arrive with the possibility of starting over. It isn’t long, however, before old patterns return, and people’s true colors emerge.

Criminals are still criminals. Drug addicts are still drug addicts. Control freaks are still control freaks.

But they are given the opportunity to battle themselves and, in many cases, they end up making remarkable changes. Some even sacrifice their lives to save their friends (“Greater love has no man than this…”).

In LOST and in our lives, the most unfathomable mystery is that of the human heart and its capacity for both great goodness and great evil.

And we see that, despite their past, people can become something new. People can be remade.

People can be saved.

And the key is love. It takes love and belonging, being part of something bigger than oneself.

It takes sacrifice. It takes giving the self away for the sake of other people, even to the point of being willing to die.

It’s hard.

But people can change.

Often, I find myself tempted by despair, standing on the edge of a precipice, looking into the darkness of my soul, wondering, “Am I going to be this way forever?”

Shows like LOST remind me that I don’t have to be; that there is hope to be found in Jesus Christ.

Sure, Christ doesn’t really play much of a part in LOST, but He’s there (“filling all things”) whether I realize it or not.

LOST wasn’t perfect. Nothing ever is.

Christ alone is the end of our longing, but until I see Him face to face, I will simply be grateful for shows like LOST, which help me see Him just a little more clearly.

Photo Credit:

LOST Title: Wikimedia Commons

Dharma Van: Doug Kline via Compfight cc

Mountain: anthony_goto via Compfight cc 

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.


For more on Pop Culture from Y2AM, check out Pop Culture Coffee Hour, Y2AM's new podcast with Steve Christoforou and Christian Gonzalez!

New Blog Series: Pop Culture Espresso Shots!

During the last year, I wrote a series of blog posts, each dealing with the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday. After working through basically the entire liturgical cycle, it’s time to begin a new project!

Since Steve and I have been dwelling in (not “being of”) and interacting with the world in our new podcast, Pop Culture Coffee Hour, I’ve decided to take that experiment just a step further.

And that is what brings us to…

Pop Culture Espresso Shots!

The dividing wall between sacred and secular is one that we often erect ourselves, and frankly, I’m tired of it. The reality is that every “secular” ritual carries sacred implications, and every “sacred” act can become secular. To divide the heavenly and the earthly is to do violence to the Word of God made flesh, who in His very Body brought creation to its proper union with the Uncreated God.

Since we’re Christians, we’re going to do more of that.

Christ Himself sets this example, not simply in the deep theology of His saving Incarnation, but even in the simple way He spoke to people. There is a reason that He told parables to capture the minds and hearts of His hearers. Jesus could have simply spoken to them of heavenly realities, telling them directly about divine forgiveness, telling them directly about the need for cultivating good deeds. He could have simply told us that man lives off God’s Word and left it at that.

But He didn’t.

Instead of telling us about God’s forgiveness, He showed us through a banal story about a father and his hapless son.

Instead of telling us about the need for cultivating good deeds, He told us a story about a farmer and some seeds.

Instead of merely preaching the need for God’s Word, He gave us Himself as real food and real drink, as Bread and Wine become Body and Blood.

It seems that God has a knack for using the ordinary as a gateway to the extraordinary.

Imagining the Extraordinary

When I was a kid, my mother read The Horse and His Boy to me, replacing the boy’s name with my own. Suddenly, the story of Shasta became my story. I had entered an extraordinary world through the very ordinary act of a mother reading a story to her son.

I became the subject of Aslan’s love. And he (He) became the subject of my own.

Now, as an adult, I understand that the real subject of my love, the real person towards whom my heart had been turned in the reading of this children’s book, was Christ Himself.

These stories capture our hearts because they are true. They are beautiful. And they are impossible.

We love Frodo because he is so little and yet overcomes the villainous Sauron. We love Narnia because animals speak. And we love Spider-Man (some of us) because he is the nerdy underdog who suddenly can walk up walls.

We love stories with impossible things.

Sadly, many of us have lost the ability to see the truth. We have lost our love of beauty. And worst of all, we have lost our ability to imagine the impossible happening.

With this sad reality buried in our hearts, how can we possibly be expected to believe the Gospel, the most impossible thing ever to have happened?

Stories thus provide a valuable training ground for our hearts, teaching us to long for the impossible. Teaching us to dwell on that which is good, noble, and pure.

On that which is true.

Telling the Truth: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

For Christians, the Truth is a person: the Crucified and Risen Lord. The Gospel of Christ tells us the truth about God and about ourselves.

The Good Truth: Our God gives His Life to defeat death.

The Crucified Body of Jesus Christ reveals to us that we have a God who is willing to give Himself fully, willingly submitting Himself to death for the sake of those He
“loved to the end.” Not to mentioned that the Resurrection shows us that death will be defeated and the dead shall also be raised.

The Bad Truth: We killed Him.

But the Gospel also shows us the scary truth about ourselves. We are violent. We are lost. We have strayed so far from our God and desire so much to be our own masters that, when our Creator comes close to us, we kill Him. We don’t want Him, and we go to great lengths to escape or get rid of Him.

The Ugly Truth: Humanity is horribly disfigured.

And the reason we try to kill Him is because He shows us the truth about ourselves. There, hanging on the Cross, the Lord shows us what it is to be human: beaten, bloodied, broken. In a word: crucified.

The Gospel shows us first that God is Love. It also shows us that we can’t handle that love. And our inability to handle that love reaches deeper than we could possibly imagine.

Learning to Fly: The Possible Impossiblity

That the Word of God would become a human infant born of a virgin; that He would live a life in submission to a human mother and Divine Father; that He would willingly enter death at the hands of His creatures; that He would be raised from the dead after three days….

All of this. Is. Impossible.

Overcoming the intellectual impossibility of these things cannot occur through our rational faculties. We know too much about science, and our heads get in the way.

Believing in the impossible is a job for the heart. We must thus embrace story-telling as the sacred art it is.

To truly know the real world, and not just know about the real world, we must spend time inhabiting worlds where good thoughts (and a little fairy dust) can make people fly.

We must dwell in places where the Good Guys win and the Bad Guys lose.

We need stories where someone can be a villain until the last minute of the last act and finally find some peace. Stories where, no matter how dark the night, the sun rises again.

We need to begin imagining the impossible, otherwise we won’t be able to believe in a God who makes the impossible happen.

So I'm gonna go make some popcorn and see what God is up to in the new season of Daredevil.

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.



— 5 Items per Page
Showing 5 results.
Christian Gonzalez
Posts: 75
Stars: 8
Date: 9/20/17
Rev. Dr. Tony Vrame
Posts: 23
Stars: 1
Date: 9/20/17
Sam Williams
Posts: 64
Stars: 0
Date: 9/19/17
Nicholas Anton
Posts: 5
Stars: 0
Date: 9/1/17
Steven Christoforou
Posts: 26
Stars: 0
Date: 8/30/17
Andrew Calivas
Posts: 3
Stars: 0
Date: 8/22/17
Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou
Posts: 24
Stars: 10
Date: 7/24/17
Anthony Constantine Balouris
Posts: 9
Stars: 0
Date: 6/28/17
Maria Pappas
Posts: 25
Stars: 0
Date: 5/12/17
Andrew Romanov
Posts: 8
Stars: 0
Date: 4/27/17