Archive for the ‘Pop-Culture’ Category

After much of the reaction against the macabre violence of The Hunger Games, Winston Smith here offers what I think Christian interaction with pop culture should look like.  Rather than denouncing immorality that exists in the storyline (if that’s your aim, the book of Judges needs some critics), Smith looks at what in the popular book and movie appeals to us as humans, created in the image of God and fallen.

Recently, as I approached the breakfast table I caught the tail end of a conversation my teenagers were having that ended with my son explaining to one of his younger sisters, “I would definitely kill you first if we were selected as tribute.” I was only mildly relieved to find that they were talking about The Hunger Games, the novel by Suzanne Collins and recent blockbuster movie. I’d heard mention of it, but given the way it had ruined my breakfast, I thought I should investigate further…  Enjoy the rest here

10 Redeeming movies from ’10

Posted: February 9, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Current Issues, Pop-Culture

Link is to Christianity Today list of Ten most redeeming movies of 2010.

Have you seen any of them? What was your take?

 

Movies

Off topic: What will become of the bookstore?

Posted: August 14, 2010 by limabean03 in Pop-Culture

From the New York Times.  This article caught my interest for three reasons.  I’m an avid reader (click here to see my 09 reading list).  I love going to the bookstore.  I just bought an IPad.  With the advent of the E-Reader (Kindle, IPad, etc.) I’m left wondering about the future of book stores and home libraries.  Your thoughts?

For readers, e-books have meant a transformation not just of the reading experience, but of the book-buying tradition of strolling aisles, perusing covers and being able to hold books in their hands. Many publishers have been astounded by the pace of the e-book popularity and the threat to print book sales that it represents. If the number of brick-and-mortar stores drops, publishers fear that sales will go along with it. Some worry that large bookstores will go the way of the record stores that shut down when the music business went digital.

“The shift from the physical to the digital book can pick up some of the economic slack, but it can’t pick up the loss that is created when you don’t have the customers browsing the displays,” said Laurence J. Kirshbaum, a literary agent. “We need people going into stores and seeing a book they didn’t know existed and buying it.”

read the whole thing here

Are cartoons more mature than movies aimed at adults?

Posted: November 30, 2009 by limabean03 in Current Issues, Film

One of my favorite memories growing up is heading off to the movies with my Dad on Saturday’s.  I recently tried to do this with my son David and was trying to figure out what movie we might go see.  I really wanted to see “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” a Roald Dahl children’s novel set to the big screen by the very talented director Wes Anderson.  I was unsure if “Mr. Fox” would be a film suitable for David.  I was more concerned about any scary scenes frightening him than anything else.  I typed in “Is the Fantastic Mr. Fox suitable for children,” in the Google search bar and came up with this review.  Long story short, we didn’t go see the film, although I still want to.  But I did find this interesting quote in the review that I thought I’d share with you:

“A colleague remarked to me, as we were leaving the theater, that what we’d just seen isn’t a children’s movie—not so much because it’s crass but because its themes and humor aren’t on a kid’s level. If you remember, I opened this review with an allusion to midlife crises. And that’s something no 8-year-old can begin to understand. (Or care about.)

Which brings me to an interesting trend I’ve been seeing in movies of late: Children’s movies are often more mature, more thoughtful and more responsible than some of the adult-targeted flicks I see.

What I mean is that R-rated romps are often infantile in their composition and lack of intelligent nuance, trumpeting only perpetual (and irresponsible) adolescence. The likes of Fantastic Mr. Fox, meanwhile, laud moral compunctions, responsibility, cooperation and familial unity.”

I enjoy movies so I see quite a few of them and I have to agree with the writer’s point.  I recently saw a film called “Up”, which was probably one of the finest movies I’ve seen in years.  It is a children’s cartoon from Pixar, however the film dealt with incredibly complex material such as infertility, growing old, broken families, friendship and responsibility.  It was escapist on one hand (it is a cartoon after all!), but rather than remaining in escapist territory it actually caused you to return and reassess the complexities and confusion of life.  Contrast that with say, the recent string of comic book films that are marketed not to teenagers but to adult men.  In a well documented phenomenon called “delayed adolescence,” it seems as if Hollywood and a great deal of other commercial forces are helping to prolong a man’s teenage years well into his thirties.  Ironic isn’t it, that a theatre will be full of grown men watching the latest Spiderman as they engage the unfulfilled vigilante fantasies of their teenage years while eight year olds will be watching cartoons learning how to be responsible men and raise families.  Seems kind of backwards to me.  Oh well. 

For a preview of “Up” click below. 

This is just a short sketch of something that requires much fuller treatment. On top of that, this is a statement about just one aspect of this problem, and not an attempt to minimize the other problems that might be in play.

Pastors are usually husbands as well, and this means that when a pastor has a wandering eye, he is insulting his wife in exactly the same way that other husbands are insulting their wives through the same behavior. Every Christian husband is the head of his wife in a way analagous to the way that Christ is the head of the church (1 Cor. 11:3Eph. 5:23). This means that every husband is constantly speaking about Jesus, whether he wants to be or not. He does not have the option of being silent about Jesus. His behavior is a statement about his theology of headship. He is saying that “this is an appropriate way for a head to act.” And because Christ is the ultimate Head, the behavior of lesser heads are statements about the nature of His headship. Just as abusive fathers are lying statements about God the Father, so unfaithful heads are a lying statement about the fidelity of Christ to His bride.

So of course a pastor needs to be faithful for that reason alone. He took his marriage vows independently of his ordination vows. But is there any additional level to this? I believe so.

When worship is being conducted in a fully biblical way, the minister and the congregation enact (in a liturgical way) a dialogue between Christ and His bride. The minister is standing in for Christ as His herald, His ambassador, His representative. This means that a pastor who has a problem with porn is lying about Christ in two ways. The first is in the way that every husband would be lying, because every husband represents Christ in some way. But the second way is at a much higher level — the minister is set apart in another unique way, and he has been set apart in this way in order to represent Christ in a more heightened way than all husbands do.

Working from the other direction, what will a secret porn problem do to the preaching and teaching? The minister who has a radical inconsistency between his enactment of Christ in his private life and his enactment of Christ in his official capacity is aware (as others are not) of the inconsistency. But people are not built to live with such inconsistencies. We don’t like walking with rocks in our shoes. So the two ways to remove the inconsistency would be 1. to repent of the porn use and deal with it appropriately or, 2. begin to teach and preach in ways that create more and more wiggle room for everybody.

read the whole thing here

GOSPEL-CENTERED – Acts 15: This is the next strategic principle for ministry in the 21st (and the 1st!) century. I do not simply mean by ‘gospel-centered’ that ministry is to be doctrinally orthodox. Of course it must certainly be that. I am speaking more specifically. (1.) The gospel is “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey” while every other religion operates on the principle of “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” (2.) Martin Luther’s fundamental insight was that this latter principle, the principle of ‘religion’ is the deep default mode of the human heart. The heart continues to work in that way even after conversion to Christ. Though we recognize and embrace the principle of the gospel, our hearts will always be trying to return to the mode of self-salvation, which leads to much spiritual deadness, pride and strife, and ministry ineffectiveness. (3.) We must communicate the gospel clearly–not a click toward legalism and not a click toward license. Legalism/moralism is truth without grace (which is not real truth); relativism is grace without truth (which is not real grace). To the degree a ministry fails to do justice to both, it simply loses life-changing power.

Text: 15:1-25 Here we see Paul, in the middle of a church-planting career, going to Jerusalem for a big theological debate. Now, why do that? Surely we ministers need to be about the work of evangelism, not going in for theological discussions! But Paul makes no bifurcation here. Chapter 15 is down the middle of Paul’s mission! It’s clarifying the gospel itself. (1) The cause of the debate is that the earliest Gentile converts to Christianity had already become Jewish culturally. That is, many of them were “God-fearers” who had been circumcised and/or abided by the clean laws and the Mosaic legislation. (2) Then Paul began bringing in real pagans or God-fearers who had not become culturally Jewish. And he was not demanding that, when they became Christians, that they had to adopt Jewish cultural patterns. (3) Then a group arose (15:1) saying, “unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved”. They had taken cultural norms and promoted them to be matters of virtue and spiritual merit. When they did that, they lost grasp on the gospel of grace and slid into ‘religion’. (4) The Council on the one hand in Peter, got hold of one end of the stick: v.6-11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we [Jews] are saved, just as they are.” (5) But, wouldn’t you know it- -James gets a hold of the other end of the stick. He agrees with Peter, but rightly asserts that Gentile Christians, though free from any requirements as to salvation, are not free to live as they like as members of a Christian community. They are obliged to live in love and to respect the scruples of culturally different Jewish brethren. So they are ordered (we tend to miss this) to live in such a way that does not offend or distress their brethren who are culturally different. (They are not to eat raw meat, they are to abide by Levitical marriage laws, and so on.) There could hardly be a better case study of the old Luther-proverb that expresses the balance of the gospel. We are “saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.” We are not saved by how we behave, but once we are saved we behave in love.

So “religion” just drains the spiritual life out of a church. But you can “fall off the horse” on the other side too. You can miss the gospel not only through legalism but through relativism. When God is whoever you want to make him, and right and wrong are whatever you want to make them–you have also drained the spiritual life out of a church. If God is preached as simply a demanding, angry God or if he is preached as simply an all-loving God who never demands anything–in either case the listeners will not be transformed. They may be frightened or inspired or soothed, but they will not have their lives changed at the root, because they are not hearing the gospel. The gospel shows us that God is far more holy and absolute than the moralists’ god, because he could not be satisfied by our moral efforts, even the best! On the other hand the gospel shows us that God is far more loving and gracious than the relativists’ god. They say that God (if he exists) just loves everyone no matter what they do. The true God of the gospel had to suffer and die to save us, while the god of the relativist pays no price to love us.

The gospel produces a unique blend of humility and boldness/joy in the convert. If you preach just a demanding God, the listener will have “low self-esteem”; if you preach just an all-loving God, the listener will have higher self-esteem. But the gospel produces something beyond both of those. The gospel says: I am so lost Jesus had to die to save me. But I am so loved that Jesus was glad to die to save me. That changes the very basis of my identity- -it transforms me from the root.

read the whole thing here

Found this article courtesy of DesiringGod. I have emboldened what I believe to be the most significant part of Piper’s critique of Russel.  I have read Russel extensively, and “bleak” is a charitable description of his worldview.  But was Russel really courageous enough to apply that worldview to his children?  A good question indeed.

One great benefit of going to a good Christian college is that you read important bad books with the help of wise Christian scholars. Most 19-year-olds are not ready to navigate the sophisticated arguments of seasoned skeptics. But with the guidance of a seasoned Christian thinker, the navigation can be profitable. It was for me.

Russell stressed the absoluteness of physical matter. In other words, if you trace the origin of everything all the way back, you arrive at impersonal matter, not personal spirit: Matter, not God, is absolute. This meant, for Russell, that there is only material existence.

This produced one of the bleakest views of human life imaginable. Here, he says, is “the world which science built for our belief.”

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of the universe in ruins. . . . Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built (Why I Am Not a Christian, editor Paul Edwards [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957], p. 107).

It doesn’t take too much assistance from a wise teacher to help a 19-year-old see something odd in this. Tragically odd. Triply odd.
First the language he uses seems borrowed from another worldview: “loves,” “beliefs,” “devotion,” “inspiration,” “genius,” “despair,” and strangest of all, “soul.” To be sure, he insists that these are all “but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms.” Really? Why would material atoms collide to create a language affirming realities beyond matter? It is an odd creation of Russell’s world.
Second, did Russell really say to his crying children (he had three) that their sorrows were the unfortunate collocation of atoms? Did he say to any of his three wives, in the best of their affections, “This is only the collocation of atoms?” In other words, did he live his philosophy? Or was he playing 20th-century academic games?

read the whole thing here