Category Archives: Christianity

Disrespect of our elder brothers and sisters

What a reprehensible display of disrespect; “Church” asks older members to worship elsewhere.   I put church in quotes on purpose.  The Lord said others will know His disciples by their love for one another.  Looking at the leadership of this supposed church it is clear they do not love their fellow congregants, nor do they love the Lord.  The older members of this particular Methodist congregation were instructed to stay away from the new congregation that was forming at a new location.  The over 60’s were told they could continue to care for the old church location, and of course are free to keep giving money to those who kicked them out!

Why are they being asked to buzz off?  They aren’t wanted anymore because they are elderly, the church wants a brand new “image” and these longtime congregants don’t fit the bill!  Disgusting. I would urge those congregants to find a new church, a real church where the fellowship and the servanthood of those in leadership roles are biblical.

Proverbs 16:13 A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness.

Leviticus 19:32  ‘You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Take head that you don’t abide false shepherds in the flock; they don’t care for the sheep, they throw them to the wolves. For shame.  Value the elderly people in the church, they are a wealth of experience and just as much brothers and sisters as younger members.

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Of Interest

Outrage Culture; Christian response?

We’ve all experienced outrage culture in some form, haven’t we?  If you’ve been on any type of social media it’s kind of hard to ignore.  The term tacks on “culture” to the outrage because it is so pervasive.  A person shares an opinion and suddenly people are compelled to jump on them, and in a flurry of hastily typed words there’s the equivalent of a slap fight.

But it can be more than that; road rage anyone? How about our sporting events, like the latest headline grabber; Kassian vs. Tkachuk in some hockey action. The thing is this culture grows with “views.”  How many people are watching, what do people want to see, how far can it go?  Take the hockey incident; hockey is one sport where people watch the matches expecting to see a dust up.  We go on Facebook or Twitter and are on the look out for some verbal sparring, or we post something that we know might stir the pot.  How many likes can we get, how do we react to that little laughing emoji, do we push people’s buttons because we actually believe it can make them change?

What are we, as Christians, called to do about all of this?  Anything?  Where is the line drawn since we are to be in the world but not of it?  Also, I’m not doing as some and suggesting that people shouldn’t share their opinions on important topics like politics or religion… obviously not since that’s kind of what this blog is about.  We are taught directly by Christ in scripture to turn the other cheek.  So, if someone is simply goading us or insulting us then perhaps we should be more inclined to let it slide vs. Christ’s example of turning over the table of the money lenders in the Temple.

With sports as well; it is better that mankind work out some violence with sport than with war, but what of violence within sport itself?  Do we, as believers, support more violent pastimes, or find our entertainment and exercise elsewhere?  I don’t think a particular sport, such as hockey or boxing, is inherently evil, not at all, but perhaps we should expect more from participants of our chosen sport.

Words are better than physical wounds, but we also know that the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21), so maybe a Christian response is more one of thoughtfulness than silence.  If people would take a second and ask themselves if what they are trying to add to a conversation is actually productive, perhaps that would help.  It’s also true that we can simply put an informed opinion out there without then engaging in a meaningless back-and-forth for the fun of it.  Every now and again, we should listen more than we speak.

Matthew 12:36 informs us that we will give an account of every idle word on the day of judgement.  For those of us who believe such things, it should give us at least a moment’s pause.  I’ve been “guilty” of the pull of outrage culture, and that verse in Matthew does spring to mind but perhaps not often enough.  We’re called to be peacemakers with truth and love, never at the expense of either.  Just something to ponder.

 

 

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Religion and Politics

The Rise of Ben Solo

This post contains SPOILERS for the latest Star Wars trilogy, especially for The Rise of Skywalker, so you have been warned (again; get outta here and go watch it on the big screen).

In my last post I talked about Ben Solo’s redemption and sacrifice and how that impacted the fans.  This time I want to talk about how that impact is spreading in the real world, and how you can participate if you’d like.

As many know, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren was played by Adam Driver in all three movies of the latest trilogy.  For some it took this last movie to see how well Adam was able to capture subtle differences when playing Kylo or when Ben was sneaking through, for others they’ve been a fan of Adam’s for a long while.  I have to say, his performance as Ben in Rise of Skywalker was fantastic.  He was able to take the material given him and literally show a physical change from Kylo Ren in Ben’s bearing, fighting style, reactions, emotions, the whole range with very little dialogue.

Ben’s redemption and death touched many fans, and made a whole new cheering section for Adam Driver as well.  Yes, some were incredibly angered by Ben Solo’s death and did not represent the Star Wars fandom in an upright manner.  However, on the flip side, one fan decided to show appreciation for the character Ben Solo and the real life actor who brought him to life so well, Adam Driver, and to focus fan emotions onto something worthwhile instead of screaming at each other on the internet.

Adam and his wife founded a charity focused on aiding troops and veterans in a very creative way; via theater.  Adam served as a Marine (he was with 1/1 Weapons Company at Camp Pendleton, CA) and wanted to give back, founding Arts in the Armed Forces, a not for profit focused on bringing the arts to service members, vets, and their families.

A GoFundMe; The Rise of Ben Solo, was set up by a fan with the (Adam Driver-appropriate) nickname of Matt the Radar Technician to benefit Arts in the Armed Forces in honor of Adam’s Ben Solo performance.  The donations started piling up, and then Adam himself got wind of the fundraiser and thanked fans personally for raising money… more donations poured in, and then Joonas Suotamo, AKA the nextgen Chewie himself, urged the fans to even greater charity by promising his own reprise of the #BenSoloChallenge.  Fans didn’t disappoint and reached the $75,000 goal and then some.  Go to the GoFundMe link and at least read the updates (especially significant is how this has impacted the fan who started this up), it’s worth a read.

Isn’t that amazing?  A good redemption story, a good actor, good fans with a good cause… sacred secular indeed.  A lot of people mock fandoms, but when one does something like this, something meaningful, to salute a job well done, well, it does a bit to redeem one’s outlook on humanity, doesn’t it?  So, after praying it over, and you can, why not join in?  The campaign runs for awhile longer (at least until 1/21/2020, and sits at almost $80,000) and if it’s over and you missed it, go to Arts in the Armed Forces and donate there.  My point here isn’t just to plug this one human effort at making a difference but to look at the phenomenon (that we’ve seen in fandoms before) and see something a little bit brighter than the norm.

Christians tend to admit a good story is tough to beat, and we believers know someone quite fond of parables.  There’s power in words, make yours good ones.  There’s power in actions, make yours count.

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Of Interest, Sacred Secular

The Rise of Skywalker & John 15:13

Yes, I’m finally going to let my Star Wars nerd flag fly, after all, I’ve already tackled Doctor Who, Star Trek, Breaking Benjamin, etc…  So, be warned; SPOILERS ahead for the new trilogy, and especially for The Rise of Skywalker.  If you haven’t watched it, what are you waiting for? It’s the best of the new 3, it is still in theaters, and I heartily recommend it.

So, Star Wars has been a part of my family since the original, and that included taking a toddler me to the theater… apparently my first Star Wars enjoyment came from R2-D2, and then morphed into a childhood crush on Han Solo.  Star Wars games, books, comics, movies, fanfic… it was all fair game, and in fact my online nickname “K’liska” came from a Star Wars fic I wrote many moons ago with my brother (I was a bounty hunter, but a good one, of course).  Star Wars has always intrigued those looking for something deeper in their movies, and George Lucas has shared some of the philosophical, cultural, and religious bits and pieces that informed his work, so it’s fair game here.

In the aftermath of seeing Rise, I quickly scanned the net to see what others thought of it all.  I always note what parts of a movie hit me and then see if it did the same to anyone else.  I wasn’t disappointed as the bulk of the conversation (and cursing) revolved around the culmination of Rey’s and Ben Solo’s storyline(s), especially in regards to Ben Solo’s death.

Ben’s story arc was one of redemption, and the evolution of a fractured, volatile, hostile loner into a man who discovered who he really was, and what he was willing to die for.  And die he did… which infuriated a lot of the fan base.  Ben wasn’t a Sith, but he was bad news as Kylo Ren; bad news in the sense that he committed one of the big immoral no-no’s; patricide.  Yes, he killed his own father, Han Solo.  Yet, there were many fans in a rager that Ben’s redemption ended in his own death, and didn’t that “set a dangerous precedent that redemption includes death?!?!”  Yes, of course it did, but it wasn’t a precedent; the precedent has already been set in human lore.

For sin comes death. It’s something that Christians should know from scripture.  It’s one of the huge lessons we are supposed to be learning down here, and it’s not a pleasant lesson to learn.  This is also what leads to the cross, and ultimate redemption via Jesus who died so that we might live. Yeah, yeah, I went there, so let me be clear; I’m not comparing Ben Solo to Jesus Christ, but I am saying death is (super)naturally connected to wrong choices.  In Ben’s case his death was a result of having to rush to save the day after a long series of bad choices and wrong actions, including Palpatine’s own immoral actions.  Jesus’ death was as a result of humankind’s bad choices all along the way of human history.  Ben’s death represented redemption, not only for himself, but also for Rey as well as his grandfather Anakin.

Christ took the idea “for sin comes death,” and put a new spin on it since He was the only sinless one; Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).  Now we see the value in a life laid down on purpose, for purpose.  I get why many fans were so upset over Ben’s death… we had just witness the rise of Ben Solo from the ashes of Kylo Ren, we witnessed the connection and love between Rey and Ben (romantic love or platonic love makes no never mind to me in this article), and the final vanquishing of the evil emperor.   Everyone wanted to cheer and be happy, but the world, even in fictional form, has consequences. Ben Solo laid down his life for his friend.  We, the fans, had just witnessed the greatest act of love possible.  It is heartbreaking in its impact, and that heartbreak leads to emotion.

Good stories (including the kind that play out on film) are meant to impact us and to teach us.  Good stories tend not to reinvent the wheel, but rather pull from story telling traditions that reflect actual reality and the human experience.  So we recognize Ben Solo’s sacrifice as an act of selfless love but we rage against it because it hurts.  That hurt is meant to teach us to live our lives in an upright way, walking tall, while the joy of seeing someone redeemed and saved is meant to make us celebrate and to be brave and to recognize the power of sacrifice.

The Rise of Ben Solo impacted fans enough that it took a real world turn, which I will write about in a separate article soon, link forthcoming (And, here it is: The Rise of Ben Solo).  In the meantime, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts dear reader, let me know what you thought of the movie, Ben Solo, Rey, JJ vs. Rian (lol), anything relevant you’d like to share…

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Reviews, Sacred Secular

The Fakes We Make

Anyone that has read my blog in the past knows I love me some Breaking Benjamin.  What can I say?  Ben can scream with the best of them, and they’re simply my favorite band, as such I listen to them a lot, and as I’ve blogged in the past, Ben wrestles with a lot of issues in his songs, as in his life, so you can get a lot of fodder for contemplation from their lyrics (no, they aren’t a Christian band, listen at thy own risk).  On their latest album, Ember, there is a song (my favorite of the album) called “Psycho” which contains:

In the cold eternal light
I am the ember fading
Every scar we try to hide
I am the fake you made me

When I heard this I was instantly reminded of conversations that I had with a good friend of mine about the Church, about Christians, and how we treat one another and the expectations we hold.  Have you noticed people in our society abandoning the gathering together of believers, even abandoning the faith?  Perhaps that’s you (I hope you stick around til the end of this article and leave me a comment, BTW.)  Recently there have been some pretty recognizable names in Christian circles that have either renounced the faith, or even committed suicide.  Kids aren’t staying in the congregations they were raised in… why?

I think Ben’s lyrics touch upon something for me, and others I know, that partially explains it… the Church has been making fakes for a long time. (Disclaimer: this is not Ben’s meaning or interpretation, it’s all mine as he doesn’t like explaining the meaning he had in his head when writing/singing any particular song so who knows what he would think of all this.)  Now, the thing is here, I’m not blaming the fake, I’m “blaming” the environment and other people responsible for creating the fakes.  What has made our churches into fake factories?

One explanation comes in the song in the line just prior; “Every scar we try to hide.”  Scars are there from battles we’ve fought; grief and loss, addiction, betrayal, idolatry, greed, gluttony, dishonesty, sin of all shapes and sizes that are either a current fight, or one in the past, sins we’ve committed or sins committed against us.  Scars can also be from hard times in life; when there’s not enough money, when we fall flat on our faces, when we get sick or hurt.  What has happened is that the feeling many people have is they are not allowed to have scars, and if they do have them, they are supposed to hide them, act as though nothing has or is happening, OR that they’ve been handled in a perfectly cherry pie way.  We certainly can’t have the truth coming out, the doubts, the fears, the struggles… Lord help the parishioner who has real questions.

There is now an almost palpable feeling of fakeness in many sermons and songs, a weird kind of whistling past the graveyard.  So, everyone must march in a quiet lockstep and put on the fake face or else others get uncomfortable really quick.  If you sing the right songs with the right kind of lyrics, if you smile and nod at all the right places, you’re assured of salvation, right?  If you say the right things and follow along and don’t ask questions, everything in your life will be peachy keen, right?  No, it just produces fakes, but they’ve had to fake it to make it, right?  Well, that works as long as everything is chugging away, but what happens when a wrench gets thrown in to the works?  What happens when the husband leaves, the baby dies, another war starts, you lose your job, the doctor says “you’ve got cancer?”  Yes, if the faith was real and true and strong in you in a real way, and you are surrounded by real, true, strong believers, God does indeed become a fortress and a safe place… but what happens to all those faking it in order to appease the crowd?  They rightfully break and when they break… they are abandoned.

Please understand, I’m not talking about every church congregation, I’ve been part of a church where I truly believe those people would’ve died for me, warts and all, and I’d like to think I’d have died for them.  However, I am talking about something going on in our churches at large, and in general.  I used to think stronger apologetics would stop the problem, and I still think it would help, but now I understand; it’s not just the words that are lacking, it’s the actions that are missing.  We can defend the faith in word all day long, but if we don’t defend it in deed, we are going to keep losing people.  We are going to keep producing fakes.

A church under physical persecution doesn’t produce fakes.  Why?  Because your conversion and sharing the faith is a matter of literal life and death.  We don’t have that here in the West.  If we don’t have that, do we show forth the faith in deed in other actions in our lives, or do we live and talk just like everyone else, and then for an hour or two on Sunday slap on the fakeness?  In some respects I think it’s harder to be genuine when you are a part of a congregation.  What do you guys think?  I’ve been a part of a fantastic congregation, I’ve been a part of some not so fantastic congregations, and I’ve been outside of a congregation, which is where I’m at now.  I think that is one reason we see people disavowing Christian affiliation more and more; at least when you label yourself a “none” you don’t have to fake it in a sea of people every Sunday.  It would be hilarious, if it weren’t true.  It’s kinda sad that I feel I can be more Christian in word and deed outside of a congregation than in one.  What’s happened to us?

My last post was on The Good, The True, and The Beautiful, and I do think some of the answer is there, but those things have to include not hiding scars, not trying to fake it til you make it, not just living like the world while preaching something totally different.  We have to actually love everyone… somehow we’ve failed in that.  We don’t have to love like the world tells us to love, we have to love dangerously… we have to love in truth and in deed, but we can’t do that if we only accept someone when they are faking it.  And, we have to take responsibility for making fakes in the first place.  I don’t have all the answers, I don’t think any one person does.  What are your thoughts?  I’d especially love to hear stories from those who have indeed left either the faith, or the church.  Have you been “the ember fading?”  Did something happen to quench that ember? What hurt?  How about stories from people who have felt like an ember fading, but you were renewed? What helped?

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Theology

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful…

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful by way of John Senior, and Ben Cash

Have you ever heard of John Senior?  If not, and you’re a Christian, you should make yourself acquainted with him.  More Catholics than Protestants have heard of this teacher, but in this day and age we can all benefit from his kind.  There is a fantastic biography of him by Fr. Francis Bethel, OSB called John Senior and the Restoration of Realism.  During the 1970’s Senior was a professor at the University of Kansas and was instrumental in developing an Integrated Humanities Program there.  Interestingly the college shut the program down after several students converted to Christianity, many of them becoming Catholic.

The ideas the Senior put forward were that we are only truly human when seeking and finding the good, the true, and the beautiful, and doing so with our minds and our senses.  Not only were the classics taught in abundance, Senior and several other professors introduced the students to dancing, star gazing, poetry, and even singing.  Truth was presented as it really is; fixed and real.  Goodness as something to be pursued because it is rooted in truth.  The flip side (rejecting Truth), Senior argued, results in depression and hopelessness, destructive personal behavior, which in turn leads to a breakdown in society and culture.  Sound familiar?  Maybe sound like what’s going on in Western culture right now?  (Go check out the suicide statistics, study the trend, and then let that sink in.)

When I first watched Captain Fantastic, which I reviewed here just the other day, I instantly (and somewhat ironically) thought of John Senior and his method of teaching.  As I mentioned in my review of the movie Ben Cash is the father of the Cash clan and his method of teaching included star gazing, anatomy, copious amounts of reading and debating, music and singing, and exercising one’s mind and body through physical encounters with the real world.  I said “ironically” above because Ben Cash apparently despises Christianity (at least through much of the movie), which John Senior championed and also held up as the ultimate lynch pin of everything, including the true understanding of the humanities.

Both Senior and Cash seem to hold some key to the massive sense of… ennui we currently seem to have in our society.  Technology isn’t evil, but I think we can all agree that in most cases what was supposed to draw us closer together either hasn’t produced that promise, or, perhaps worse, has made us all engage in compulsive comparisons which then results in depression.  Keeping up with the Joneses has become global, and when the Joneses only post the highlights of their lives on social media it compounds the problem (folks, here’s the secret; Mr. Jones has a gambling addiction, Mrs. Jones is contemplating suicide, the kids hate each other, and they are in debt so far over their heads they’ll never get out… well, maybe that’s hyperbole, maybe not.)  Consumerism has run amok, mental health issues are on the rise, and we are more divided as a people than ever.

Both Senior and Cash call us back to our senses; we are whole and complete creatures only when our physical selves are involved.  Seeing someone’s picture or even a live vid of them is great when that’s all you can get, but isn’t a hug 100 times better?  You can see the real person, feel them, heck, even smell them (hopefully it’s a nice smell!).  How about nature?  Seeing a picture or a vid of a tree isn’t anything like experiencing a tree with our senses.  When our senses are involved it speaks to the concrete nature of our world, it gives us experiences that are more rich and steeped in truth.  When you are out hiking and trip on a root or a rock and fall, you are experiencing gravity first hand, and yes, you experience physical pain.

We have become divorced from nature and nature’s God.  We’ve even become divorced from each other.  And, yes, I’m speaking in generalities, as there are those who actually make an effort to experience life first-hand, instead of through a screen (however, I know more people who gripe about tech and social media and yet still have their noses shoved up against screens 24 hours a day).  How many of us still hike, stargaze, grow our own food, hunt our own food, write letters with a pen and paper, hold books in our two hands, bury our noses in roses, learn to actually dance with a partner in a manner that takes finesse and skill…  The classics of literature are being trashed (sometimes literally), and cast aside.  We read less and less (especially the males of our society) and watch TV more and more.

What Senior and the fictitious Cash calls us toward is a reconnect with what makes us human, something that gives us roots and wings.  I think of Tolkien’s hobbits when I read of Senior as well; comfort, and parties, and food… a warm, dry house, and a full belly while strolling in the garden that you planted and tended.  Sure, Bilbo and Frodo were grand adventurers and heroes, but that is because their roots were in the good, the true, and the beautiful represented by the Shire.  Ben Cash’s kids were indeed brilliant, but lacked that incredible piece of the puzzle that makes us fully human; society.  Now our society itself lacks the good, the true, and the beautiful, and it’s up to us as individuals to seek them out, and to offer them to others as much as we can.  (BTW, Ben Cash, and his wife, both turned their backs on God and that was the other major piece of the puzzle missing… interesting how Cash’s downfall involved rejecting both key commandments summed up by Christ; Love God, and love your neighbor.  So, as much as Cash reminded me of Senior in his teaching style, that’s the major difference and why Cash became so disconnected to the world he tried to teach his kids about.)

We need more physical activity, more time in nature, more unprocessed food, and to share that healthy food with others, more gratitude.  Instead of basking in the glow of our electronics, perhaps a good ol’ fashioned cookout is in order, with the glow and the warmth of the fire reflected from friendly faces.  When is the last time you read a classic?  How about some poetry?  Go visit someone you haven’t seen in forever, take ’em some home grown veggies, flowers, or just yourself.  After it’s all over, find and acknowledge those feelings of gratitude.  God hasn’t gone anywhere, perhaps spare some time for Him, and that’s to fulfill your needs, not His.

In other words, let’s remember what it’s like to be fully human in the world we inhabit; seek and find the good, the true, and the beautiful, share it with others, it’s still there.

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Philosophy, Psychology

Captain Fantastic; The Review I Want to Read

As seems to be the norm, I’m late to the game… but better to show up late than not at all. Right?  This post is a review piece on the 2016 movie Captain Fantastic staring Viggo Mortensen.  Quite frankly, the reason I’m writing this review here and now in 2019 is that I keep reading reviews of this movie and haven’t ever found the one I’m looking for… I guess that means that like everyone else, I’m looking for something that aligns with my subjective take on the thing.  Having not found one in 3 years that I agree with (in total), and after much sighing in frustration, I decided to write my own.

Well, it’s not really that I just want to write my own, it’s that almost every Christian review I’ve read about this movie is embarrassing to me as a Christian, and I’m going to focus a lot on the religious (or anti-religious) bits of the movie.  So, let’s get a few things out of the way; this movie features cussing, anti-religious sentiment, and last but(t) not least, full-frontal male nudity.  Yes, indeed, if you want Viggo in all his glory, this is the movie for you.  I happen to love this movie, but that is in spite of, not because of, Viggo’s glory.  Please, if nudity offends you, I totally understand, don’t watch the movie.  If someone using the Lord’s name as a (or in the midst of a) curse word, is a deal breaker, avoid it.  I really do understand completely.  (One point I never see mentioned when people are going off about said nudity is that there is zero, 0, female nudity in this movie, and the nudity is not sexual in any way… I think that is on purpose and makes me like the movie more, because I truly think the writer/director Matt Ross did it to make a point.)

Anywho, enough about the nudity.  This review and discussion contains spoilers, and yes, the movie is 3 years old, but on the ‘net there is always that one person who screams bloody murder at the fact there wasn’t a spoiler warning even though it’s old news.  What we have with Captain Fantastic is a story about parenting (specifically fatherhood), and the attempt to be present in your offspring’s lives to a greater degree than anyone else is; to raise your kids as you see fit.  Matt Ross then adds the layer of; what if those parents have an ideology that does not line up with the majority population?  Most reviews miss this basic point.  Many believe this movie exists to bash a certain political or religious perspective, and they contend the vehicle for this is how we are supposed to feel about Ben (played by Viggo) who is the patriarch of his family.  I don’t know what movie they were watching but the father is not portrayed as a hero… all I can come up with is people were 1) not paying attention while watching and 2) were so offended by what they perceived to be the point early on, that they missed the point entirely.

The family; Ben Cash the Dad, Leslie the Mom, oldest brother Bodevan, twin girls Kielyr & Vespyr, Rellian the rebellious brother, Zaja the death obsessed sister, and the “baby” of the family, little brother Nai.  Mom and Dad are out of the norm and hard to quantify specifically, but what I instantly noticed that never really gets mentioned is that Ben wears a Mjolnir pendant.  Now, we are told flat out that Leslie, his wife, is an Buddhist in regards to philosophy not religion, but we are never told what Ben is, other than he isn’t Christian.  Their main beef seems to be against organized religion, which may be a reaction against Leslie’s upbringing that sharp-eyed viewers will find to be Catholic.  Many wear Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) as a sign of protection, or as a nod to heritage, there are even Neo-Nazi’s who have latched on to it as a symbol.  Some wear it to simply show they aren’t Christian, but Ben’s use of it is interesting because who exactly is he wearing it for?  They see almost nobody, but even in the deep woods, or when showering in a waterfall, he keeps it on and no one (in the movie or in the reviews) really seems to notice. (Interesting side note; Viggo, as himself, has been photographed wearing one as well.)  Further, if I may jump to the end of the movie, in the final scene we clearly see he is not wearing it anymore, which is a really important clue that he has indeed changed his ways.

The whole family lives out in the Pacific northwest on a kind of homestead; tiny house with teepee, garden, treehouse, etc… They hunt and grow and can their own food.  The kids are homeschooled, which includes hand-to-hand fighting, meditation, wilderness survival training, lots of phys ed, field trips, music education, and a handpicked reading itinerary complete with tests and debates.  They all dress (or undress) however they feel like.  Mom is conspicuously absent and we soon learn why; she’s been admitted to a hospital because of her bipolar disorder which has finally forced her families to try to get her intensive help.  She slits her own wrists one night and we get the feeling she’s threatened to do this many times before, but this time succeeds and kills herself.  This sets the stage for the rest of the movie.

Now, here are some points that many don’t seem to catch.  When Ben finds out she’s dead, he looks through their important papers and opens her will.  We see (and hear) that Ben himself is shocked at her requests (we are kept in the dark about the particulars at first), just as earlier in the movie we see he is shocked at little Zaja’s death obsession that revolves around taxidermy, altars made of animal skulls, and Pol Pot.  Again, dad is not fully in control here and we are allowed to see that, nor is he immune to the norms and mores of the wider culture.

Leslie was being treated close to her mom and dad, who are rich, powerful, and used to getting their way.  Because of the Cash family’s “wild” ways they do not want Ben interfering with Leslie’s funeral and burial and warns Ben to stay away, which of course he doesn’t.  Now, here is where I wish more Christians would express their outrage along with Ben.  Leslie’s mom and dad, who are Catholics, completely and totally ignore their daughter’s wishes and will.  Leslie was a Buddhist who wanted to be cremated, not embalmed and buried.  She wanted music and dancing; a celebration of her life.   And, yes, she wanted her ashes flushed down a toilet. Hey, I don’t agree that’s how human remains should be handled, but that is what she wanted and had listed in her will.  Other reviewers focus on Ben (and fam’s) “bad” behavior in the church during her funeral… bad behavior? Reading her will, dressing out of the norm, and trying to stop the proceedings is not the bad behavior.  The bad behavior is on the part of the mom and dad who did not respect their daughter’s last wishes, who had her embalmed, placed in a Catholic Church, all laid out in a massive coffin, and then buried under a Christian tombstone.  None of that is acceptable from a Christian perspective and is meaningless to put a non-Christian through it.

Other worthy mentions; reviewers target a conversation that takes place in a bank.  The kids are shocked when they see everyone is so overweight.  They haven’t been exposed to that before, and they wonder if everyone is sick.  Nai thinks everyone looks like hippos and says so.  His sisters remind him that isn’t proper, “We don’t make fun of people.”  Vespyr helpfully chirps, “except Christians!”  What most Christian reviewers miss is the look of exasperation on Ben’s face right after his daughter says this.  He knows he’s caught in the very same hypocrisy that he claims infects Christianity.  Does he correct this? No, but the look says it all and we are supposed to catch it as the viewers.

In another scene, Ben is rightfully pulled over for a non-functioning left taillight.  The police officer boards “Steve” (their modified school bus) and begins poking around because the kids are not in school and the situation appears unusual.  Bodevan gets the idea to run the officer off by proselytizing like a stereotypical evangelical Christian homeschooled family, and they all begin serenading the officer with “One Day When Heaven was Filled with His Praises” and the officer beats a hasty retreat, sending them on their way.  Somehow this offends Christians too… but this Christian has heard the jokes my brothers and sisters tell each other; “When you get a call from either a salesperson, or a fake phishing call, just start telling them about Jesus and they’ll hang up really quick! Hahaha.”  We know how proselytizing can come off, and some have weaponized it, and now we’re going to act ticked off because it’s used in a similar fashion, but by a non-believer? Nah, it’s funny, lighten up.

Let me flip it for a second and also clarify a point that confuses some reviewers.  Ben and fam don’t celebrate Christmas, even the secularized version.  This is one of the areas of the film that I’m really surprised they didn’t tweak.  Instead of any holiday like Christmas, the Cash family celebrates Noam Chomsky day… and they celebrate it early on their adventure, just like Christmas in July.  Rellian, the family rebel, thinks it’s stupid, and asks why they can’t just celebrate Christmas like everyone else.  Ben then weaponizes his own philosophy against his son; he essentially humiliates Rellian by demanding an answer to the following question. “You would prefer to celebrate a magical fictitious elf, instead of a living humanitarian who’s done so much to promote human rights and understanding?”  I’ve seen Christian reviewers get really bent out of shape here… because they think he’s referencing Christ.  No. He’s referencing Santa Claus of course.  (Personally I think this is a misstep in writing Ben’s character, but it may have been deliberate to sidestep actually bashing Christian beliefs.  Why would Ben have focused on attacking something we all know isn’t true vs. attacking the idea of Jesus Himself?  It doesn’t fit the character, IMO.)  But that’s beside the point, the point is, this is not an attack on Christ.

And finally the point of the movie itself; the dad was wrong.  Not only was the dad wrong, he figures that out, and tells the kids (and us) just how wrong he has been (this is after what I see to be the climax of the movie when his daughter Vespyr falls from her grandparents’ rooftop and about dies).  Now, if the point of the movie was to glorify Marxism, and anti-Christian sentiment, why would the dad admit his experiment was “a beautiful mistake?”  Why would he then change course, move his kids back to a farm and enroll them in public school, and remove his Mjolnir pendant for the first time in the whole movie? It’s clear as day that he is still a loving, devoted father, he’s just realized there is more than one way to show that and to guide and protect his kids.  We can also see that the family does not throw out their former lives or learning, but things are repurposed and balanced out.  The point is; if you make your kids into philosopher kings and they have no society to interact with, then what’s the point?  If you get your kids seriously injured or killed in raising them up, then what’s the point?  Ben has finally learned you have to walk the path between order and chaos in a balanced manner.

All of that to say; I loved the movie.  It’s one that should make you think, but if you go into it with a chip on your shoulder about what you initially perceive as “anti” this and that, then you’ll miss the lessons Ben learns along the way.  Movies like this should especially challenge us Christians and make us reflect on if there is any truth to the stereotypes against us, and if they are something we want to change or not.  It should also make everyone, Christian and non, realize the importance of educating ourselves and raising the bar when it comes to interpersonal discussions, and parenting.  Finally, it also calls our society into question; what we spend time, effort, and money on, and if those things are actually meaningful (or inline with the Christian ideal anymore).

I plan to post at least one more article on particular aspects of the movie that I found so interesting, I hope, dear reader, that perhaps they will be interesting to you as well…

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UMC During A Time of Winnowing

One of the most divisive topics is now “threatening” to divide the United Methodist Church.  You can read about it here if you haven’t been following along; United Methodists Edge Toward Breakup Over LGBT Policies.  I don’t understand the “edging” bit, as the Methodists as a whole already discussed this and voted on it at their conference back in February.  The vote was clear; the traditional stance on marriage stands.

I get that if this continues to stand that the UMC is going to lose a lot of congregations and individuals, but why would the UMC be forced to split?  It’s been voted on; here are the beliefs of the UMC.  That means if you disagree with that, and are not going to follow the guidelines, then why are you clinging to the title of Methodist?  I would like to think it is out of some type of moral hesitancy to further split the body of Christ, but I’m not that naive.  What do I think is going on?  It’s one more way to tear down the Church from the inside out, it’s a way to take the UMC and publicly force it to bow to progressive ideals that do not accept the New Testament God-given and traditional Christian definition of marriage.

Make no mistake, this is a “Winnowing Topic;” it does separate the wheat from the chaff.  As you winnow, the wind carries away the chaff as it is not built to withstand the wind, rather it is driven before it.  The question of Homosexual marriage is one that cannot be skirted.  And, to be clear, I’m talking about God ordained marriage, not state ordained.  Just as we don’t rely on the state to baptize, nor to tell us who is baptized, believers should not, cannot, rely on the state to tell us who is or is not married.  This is why it seems traditional Christians are always harping on homosexuality; it’s not something that can be danced around.  It’s too much of a prevalent topic in society that those who deny that two men or two women can be married in the eyes of God stand out like a sore thumb.

Progressives can’t tolerate dissent, and anyone who does not agree must be taught a lesson.  That’s why I think there is so much “angst” over trying not to leave the UMC intact.  If it’s left intact, and it’s the progressive liberals that must leave, that is an admission of defeat of the ideal, and that is the unforgivable sin in progressivism.  The traditional Methodist are clear; they love and welcome anyone into congregations, and to some extent even the pulpit, but they are commanded by God not to love or approve of certain actions; hence, it is the actions that are not welcome and need to change.  One of the premises of Methodist belief is that we do have free will in that with the help of God we can choose our actions.  The liberal progressives within the UMC want to change the unchangeable.

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He is Risen!

In historical fact and in truth, He is Risen, He is Alive!  God bless all my brothers and sisters in Him on this Easter…

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First the Cross

It’s Good Friday.  There are a lot of thoughts out there on what Good Friday means to us, so I thought I would add mine.  Here are some of my takeaways as to how to apply the lessons of Good Friday to our lives.

Even though you know what’s coming, keep pushing forward.  Avoidance only works in our lives in the short term.  If there is a rough road ahead we sometimes try to skirt around it, and then wind up in a ditch.  We need to logically look at the facts around us, pray to God that His will be done, and then move forward.  Sometimes life flat out stinks… if you see someone preaching that life is roses and kittens 24/7, run the other way.  We, as Christians, are to be made over into “little Christs,” well, that means sometimes first the cross.

Even though you are anxious, keep pushing forward.  Read the scriptures about Jesus in the garden.  Courage isn’t about a lack of anxiety, it is about having anxiety and acting anyway.  Humans get anxious when confronted with hard things.  That’s ok.  Seek out people that can help you with the burden of anxiety, seek out the Father that is always there, always listening to our fears and desires.  And, if you are anxious about everything, it’s time to get some help with that, and I’m saying that sincerely.  Anxiety can turn into a beast that we start to feel we can’t control, and there’s lots of reasons that anxiety can take over, but it can be fought and put back into perspective.  For rational anxiety; things work out, but first the cross.

Even though you are going through excruciating times, you can be right in the middle of God’s will.  Isn’t that one of the ultimate messages?  Don’t let other Christians shame you into thinking that we only suffer if we sin… did not Jesus suffer?  Was not Jesus sinless?  It rains on the just and the unjust alike, and the sun shines on both.  I would love to say that if you convert to Christianity that you won’t suffer… I can’t say that, it would be a lie, but what I can say is that as Christians, suffering has meaning.  Suffering also has an end.  We aren’t to seek suffering out in some masochistic manner, but when it comes to us, we hit our knees, seek His will, and remember His cross.  The resurrection is coming, but first the cross.

Hang in there my fellow humans, it doesn’t end at the cross.

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