Category Archives: Musings

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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2020 Oscar Nominations arrive…

Yes, it’s that time of year again when award shows appear and Hollywood turns out to make some cringe worthy speeches.  You can find the list of nominees here: Oscar Nominations 2020.  The main reason I’m posting is that several nominations, and the only ones I actually care about tie into some of my recent posts.

Adam Driver is up for Best Actor for his role in Marriage Story, a particularly depressing look at a failed marriage.  However, I give Adam kudos because he was brilliant in it and deserves recognition for his breakdown scene alone.  My recent post The Rise of Ben Solo is obviously connected to his role in The Rise of Skywalker, but it is focused on Adam’s acting abilities, what he brings to his character, and his charity.  If you feel so inclined to root him on, perhaps giving something to his charity in honor of his acting would be highly appropriate given that the charity is Arts in the Armed Forces, and it’s an Oscar race.  See my post for the GoFundMe drive that is currently up to over $81,000 as of 1/13/2020.

And, last but not least, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is up for original score, sound editing and visual effects.  Truly we can all agree that John Williams needs to win this, as his music has touched us all whether we are Star Wars fans or not (we are!).  His scores are good enough that one should either listen to them on their own, or train their ears/brain to pay attention to the music as one watches the movie.  His scores are one of the best reasons to go see Star Wars films in a theater as you get to experience the music as it was intended to be experienced.  Another earlier post of mine, The Rise of Skywalker & John 15:13, touches on one of the main themes of the movie, and of the Star Wars franchise; Redemption.  Pay attention to the score behind the scenes as that redemption plays out.

Anywho, that’s really the only picks I’m paying attention to this year… let’s hope we get out of the Oscars without a new scandal to occupy everyone.

 

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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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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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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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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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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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