Saturday, March 29, 2014

Soylent Green, Part Deux

This is a continuation of a previous post on this movie, see below.

I go to the imdb boards and read about other people's views of movies, more than I should, especially when I have just watched one for the first time and wonder how others liked it, or didn't.  I have a dream of teaching an intro to film course one day, maybe.  Most of the comments are inane, but some people really do know their film studies.

One recurring theme, though, is for some person on the board, sometimes being obnoxious, sometimes being sincere, to say, "Are X and Y gay?"  Fill in the blank with two characters in the movie, or sometimes just one.  In the case of Soylent Green, it was Roth and Thorn.  I find this question curious and disturbing, not because there aren't gay characters in movies, and not because sometimes there aren't subversive messages about it in Hollywood films, but because it gets asked so often and about characters who so clearly aren't but who are of the same sex and love each other.  When Roth dies, they tell each other they love each other.  Conclusion:  they are gay.

I find this incredibly sad at one level, that anyone portrayed as having a loving relationship with a person of the same sex is assumed to be loving them in a sexual way.  Where does this come from?  From homophobiaphobia, that is, that a fear that others will think one is homosexual if one loves another person dearly?  (Which is probably more homophobic than homophobia).  From never seeing close friends of the same sex who weren't engaged in a sexual relationship, especially men; that is, never seeing two close male friends, which was common in the past when coed education and lifestyles were less common?  From not having a close relationship with one's father or mother?  Clearly, Roth and Thorn are like father and son, one being quite a bit older and mentoring the younger one.  Or does it come from a self definition,  that ultimately all we are is genitalia that has to be stimulated sexually?  I think it's a combination, and I find it very sad. 

One of the fondest memories I have of my husband is of him holding hands with another man--a man forty or more years older than he.  It was in a public place, and it was hot and crowded, and the man was, I fear, a tad disoriented.  He cared for this man deeply, and showed it in his act of helping guide the man around.  I think of friendship like that--we stabilize others, we guide them as they guide us.

This is not a screed against gay people; please don't take it that way.  It's a reflection on the loss of a perspective on friendship and relationship.  It works the other way, too; two people of the opposite sexes are seen to be in a secret affair if they are close friends.  I have many male friends but I am sure that possibility never crossed their minds, and it didn't mine either.  Of course, in both cases sex can come into it, but not as much as the gossips and gutterminds would like to think. 

Reflections on Lent, March 29, 2014

Easter is three weeks away.  My life is so insanely busy (although the rain today has thwarted by plans to start digging up my garden) that I have lost track of this important goal.  My blog posts are even way off topic, and kind of silly.

Tomorrow I am supposed to teach from the book of Proverbs, and the quarterly's theme is "Don't be a Slacker."  That is fairly inappropriate for my class; my ladies work too hard rather than too little.  So why have we gotten this way?  Is part of our extreme work ethic a spiritual problem?  Where does God fit into our work?  Where does grace?  a friend of mine used the term "merit mongering" the other day, and I can't help but think that somewhere in our frenzied work all the time culture there isn't a strain of "This will get me some kind of merit with God." 

Why do we fall into the trap that our feeble, self-oriented actions have anything to do with gaining merit with God? why do we feel that if we are in church we are getting some brownie points? Why do I feel that getting this doctorate will advance the kingdom (I haven't seen it yet)? 

Obedience is not racking up points and knocking ourselves out to get smiley face stickers from God.  Obedience is fitting into his sovereign plan.  Obedience is a trustful heart, an open heart, a willingness to pray and listen and speak of and to and for God.  Obedience is as much resting as working.  I am as obedient sitting sharing graceful words with others as I am rushing around, and boy, can I rush around.  Although I think we misread the Mary and Martha story in Luke 9, there is more Martha in me than Mary.

There will never be a lack of things to do.  This morning there was a fundraiser 5K at the college.  I totally did not get up for it.  They sure would have liked me there, but whose purpose would be served?  I can give them the money.  I would have looked like a team player, look at me, everyone, I want to be with the in-crowd.  

Maybe the rain that is keeping me indoors and preventing my garden-digging is God's reminder to rest, enjoy my husband's companionship, and focus.  I think that will be my lesson for tomorrow, and my Lenten reflection. 

It is finished, and we don't have to keep finishing it.

Soylent Green--Yes, Soylent Green

I had heard about this movie all my life, well, since the '70s, and it was on TCM last night at midnight, and I was up late writing doctoral papers and wasn't tired, so I watched it.  It followed the two excellent movies, Babette's Feast and Big Night, which are food-themed movies but which I don't think of as food-themed movies, really.  One is about the conflict of dualism and true spirituality, and the second is about family and love; they both have a lot of exotic dishes.  The wildness of the food prevents me from being hungry from the movies.  Even that timpano thing in Big Night makes me kind of nauseous. 

(On the imdb board, people were all upset about the quails, turtle, and cows being slaughtered in Babette's Feast.  I suppose they really were, which makes a difference from when people are killed in movies--we know they really weren't.  I doubt that turtle was really killed though.  He was a beauty.  These people don't understand history or culture, only their own little comfortable world view.)

But back to Soylent Green.  I was telling my husband this morning that I thought it was very good, and he sort of laughed at me because he had seen it in the '70s and thought Charlton Heston was all wrong for it.  Maybe, but Heston was the big action star of the time.  My beef is that he looked too healthy and buff for someone who hadn't eaten real food in a long time, maybe all his life.

There were a lot of things I liked about the movie, but primarily I see it as an historical document of what people in the 1970s thought 2020 (six years from now) will be like.  Massive overpopulation, deforestation, pollution, starvation, dehumanization, global warming, and absolute lack of power, food, relationships.  It is about as dystopian as anything, and I thought it was more realistic, all considered, than say a Hunger Games or Logan's Run (very dated). I thought the scene were Edward G. Robinson commits suicide at the "center" was touching, as was Thorn's and Roth's relationship.  The "furniture girls" prostitutes were interesting in this age of sex trafficking.  Of course there were plot holes, but what doesn't have those?  There is something here to ponder.

The biggest plot hole for me is that we would have controlled population growth with birth control.  People have been averaging less than 2 kids per couple anyway for a long time, so that pretty much shoots the concept out of the water. 

So, why didn't it turn out this way?  Well, I can't help but say abortion--we have killed 50 plus million unborn, so there's some of it.  White and black population in the US is not really rising; it's Latinos who are the rising population.  Population is going down in the northern hemisphere.  Secondly, maybe enough dystopian futuristic things got to us and we as a nation passed more pollution laws (the city I live near, Chattanooga, has really turned that around in 50 years).  Also, we have learned to produce more food more efficiently.

There is plenty of food.  The problem is distribution, not production.  People want to argue with me about that, but the facts are there.  We let food rot, and there is a problem of obesity in the West.  Food insecurity is a political (and choice) problem.

Mostly, the assisted suicide has come to pass in some places.  We will have more and more concerns about what to do with the elderly.  Some of us will be healthy in old age, but some not.  Roth kills himself because he knows the truth and can't bear it; will we be expected to die to make it easier for the younger generations to support themselves? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bathsheba was a hoochie, and other musings on a Friday morning

I have not posted my Lent reflections for the last few days, and need to get back on the wagon.  However, this morning I have had some experiences that make me want to post some thoughts, although I have piles of doctoral work to tackle this weekend.

This morning I had an appointment at HRBlock for my taxes, and while this is not an advertisement, it is a statement of being pleased.  I thought I would have to pay at least $1000; I came out $300 ahead, so I'm happy.

I stopped on the way home at my favorite local nursery and bought my garden dirt and manure.  That is at least step one to getting into gardening.  I can't not get into the dirt and try to grow some vegetables.  It's a type of hope, I think, and a connection with my grandmother Josie.

Speaking of whom, I attended a reading and reception for Project Keepsake last night in Dalton at the Creative Arts Guild.  If you come across this blog because of the title (which is deliberative provocative), please check out this link.  My friend Amber Nagle edited and birthed this book of charming stories, and we hope it will become a series.  My story is about my grandmother's ugly quilts.  It was well received; it's funnier than I realized, but I have a sardonic twinge to my writing.

Now, as to the title; I was listening to Chuck Swindoll (I'm sure it was an old sermon) on WMBW.  He was preaching on David's sin with Bathsheba, or at least that was part of it.  I have heard dozens, probably scores of sermons.  No one ever, ever talks about Bathsheba's role in it.

The prevailing idea was that in a Middle Eastern world, she was a girl who just couldn't say no.  That is simply not true.  She could have--but didn't.  Why?  Vanity?  Inability to take a stand against the good looking king who was known to be a ladies' man?  Not being a good Jewish girl? (I'm not sure of her heritage, but her husband was not a native Jew.  While millions of women have been raped and had no choice in it, here is one who did have a choice, I would argue.   On top of that, she is just as complicit in the rest of the plot at David was, ie., trying to kill her husband after the pregnancy.

Now, that is my view of it. Two points:  a feminist would argue hegemony, oppression, marginalization, all that, but remember her husband was a man of power, too, so she wasn't some poor little peasant.  Second, I feel that feminism wants women to have agency but at every turn denies it to them, or denies they can really use it to their best benefit.  Oh, the examples we could give--especially in this whole birth control mandate for ACA, Hobby Lobby, etc. 

Second point, therefore, is that I give Bathsheba agency; in fact, my version of her is more Lady MacBeth than victim  Maybe I will rewrite the story as a novel and give my own reframed take on it, as Aronofsky has done on the story of Noah.

Speaking of which (poor use of same transition), I have read two long reviews on it.  Think I'll save my money, although it sounds like a fascinating mess.

My final reflection will be hidden here at the bottom. What about this World Vision debacle?  Even though they have reversed their decision, I think I will find a different destination for my economic justice dollars.  I don't feel like giving to them is good stewardship any more; this decision is partly due to how many letters I get from them, at least two a week, to give money.  They spend more in sending me these letters than I give, as does Prison Fellowship.  I do appreciate what both these groups do, although other groups do what World Vision does.

My biggest question with World Vision is "What in the world were they thinking?"  Why would they make that decision, and make it so public when (a) they didn't have to and (b) they knew it would causes such a firestorm and cost them millions in contributions.  It shows a lack of wisdom on their parts that they would endanger their donation flow by wading into this controversy.  Who do they think gives them money?  The ACLU?  Planned Parenthood?  No, dumb little evangelicals like me who have lots of gay friends and colleagues but firmly believe that marriage does not have to be redefined or thousands of years of civilization rewritten.

In retrospect, if I were sponsoring a child, I wouldn't change my giving to them, because the child needs it and that has been proven to be the best way to raise children from poverty.  I just don't think I will be touting them so much, mainly because of the lack of wisdom, not because of this specific issue.  

Oh, yeah, my diversity teacher used this argument in class:  Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality or gay marriage, therefore it is all right. And this guy teaches doctoral classes.  Apparently he has never heard of the fallacy of argument from silence.  You can't prove something from nothing.  Secondly, Jesus did say something about gay marriage--He affirmed that marriage is a man and woman. Third, Jesus also didn't say anything about cannibalism, but I'm pretty sure he is against it. Jesus was a good Jew who affirmed all the moral OT law.  Give me a break.  He also claims that same-sex marriage has been around since the beginning of time.  Usually these were people in very powerful, empirical positions, not the average Joe.  The average Joe and Joann knew better.  There are lots and lots of aberrations in human history.  The exception does not make the rule. 

If you don't like my position, I can live with that.  I am supposedly in the minority (not on the planet, though), but at one time in history the majority thought the earth was flat; appeal to the majority is another logical fallacy, but liberals don't deal in logic.  Just don't put words in Jesus' mouth.  You might have perfectly good reasons for a position, and to be honest, I do think same-sex marriage is relevant to civil right issues, the strongest argument for it.  Just don't bring Jesus into it when you don't believe in him anyway.

Addendum:  Well, I just found out that it's a myth that people thought the earth was flat.  Not sure if that's a myth, too.  But the majority has often been wrong, and there are lots of examples, so the point remains.  I thought about taking this post, or the last couple of paragraphs down, but I'll stay by it.  I do believe that gays should have some rights, like civil unions, just not redefining marriage.  It will end badly for those who disagree, who by the way are not just conservative Protestants like me but most of the third world, Muslims, Catholics, and orthodox Jews.  We are told we are on the wrong side of history, but that is another logical fallacy, that history is a force, a monolithic unified personality.  It's called hypostatization.   I wasn't a debate coach for nothing.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reflections on Lent, March 24, 2014

Quote from Eugene Peterson.  "And yet every day I decide to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do clumsily--open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride."

I am one of those people whose attempts to love are, or at least feel, often clumsy and awkward.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's the words, maybe I don't hug well.  I will take it as one of those things that just won't be perfect on this side of the divide between earthly life and eternity.   Even clumsy attempts are more heartening than depending on what I do well, those things that stoke my pride. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reflections on Lent, March 23, 2014

I have missed three days, and I don't want this to be some sort of legalistic, phony exercise.  Not everyday do I have the time or a word to post anything meaningful.  Yesterday I drove six hours, to go to a meeting related to my doctoral work.  My sciatic is excruciating, and I've taken a pain pill and am lying on a heating pad, hoping to get over this day rather than prolong it, as the week ahead is challenging.  Already today I have gone to early church and Sunday School, visited my mother, did her an errand and went to Sam's Club, and come home and done some housework.  That is not much but it seems like a lot considering my pain, and that is the theme of this post.

In the car on Sundays I often listen to one or two programs that are basically about New Age philosophy. I won't name them, but they are broadcast on the local NPR station.  Although I often roll my eyes at its talk of "spirituality," they often have interesting programs on the arts and creativity, so I like to hear it if I am in the car driving anyway.  One speaker, or interview guest today, is a guru of time management (reading from his book's Amazon page) spoke about bringing strength out of yourself, your own spiritual resources, to deal with stress, etc., etc., blah, blah blah.

The difference between true Christian spirituality and this new age or humanistic spirituality (other than truth, of course) is the source.  Internal or external?  For Christians, it comes from another place, another person.  We do not have it within ourselves; that is the whole point.  Other views claim that it's all inside of ourselves and we just have to find the tools, the keys, the words to unlock it.

I do believe we have a lot of unconscious memories and experiences within us that can help us with creativity, but power to overcome, to serve, to do, is from the Holy Spirit.

Garrison Keillor once said, "The people who started the human potential movement had only known each other since Tuesday."  That sums it up for me.  Unfounded optimism. 

There is a Lenten point to this:  Lent is about the outside coming in, about the OUTSIDE ONE making it possible for us to enter Him and Him to enter us.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reflections on Lent, March 19

One of my favorite hymns about this season.

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s Name,
Salvation through His blood.

My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lenten Reflection for March 18, 2014

These will seem a bit random.

The frivolous, foolish, debauched, tragic--I'm going downhill here--nature of our society was seen yesterday in the so-called celebration of St. Patrick's Day.  From everything I have read, Patrick, who was actually English, was worthy of a day and the honorific (although we Protestants know all Christian believers are saints).  So how is his "day" celebrated by most?  Ugly green colors plastered everywhere and drunkenness.  In fact, this seems one of the most racist of holidays--all Irish are drunkards, so we will honor that by getting drunk no matter our background.  I am not Irish, but the stereotypes disturb me.  They come from the fact that Celts (and Scots) don't metabolize alcohol like some do.  Asians don't either, but we don't have a drunken Japanese person holiday.

For today, I am thinking about service, what it means.  Perhaps it is a wide enough concept that we can all make it what we want.  Is service about the outward behavior, the outcomes, the idea that money is not earned, or the heart and motivation behind it, or all of these or none?  Because I get paid to "teach" (not really), do I not do service in my work?  I am paid to fulfill the role of a full-time faculty member here, which includes creating conditions for learning, conducting classes, and assessing student work.  Those are outward signs that teaching is or may be going on, but I often am reluctant to say I teach because I am not always sure I do.  I did today; we had a good class in epublishing on polishing the manuscript.  At other times, not so sure.  But my heart is to help my students become more skilled and knowledgeable, in general.  My main service is to build the kingdom of God, although I am not sure I do that either, and it might be pretentious to even imagine such a thing.

So I have to come back to it as motivation more than outcome.  Other thoughts?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lenten Reflection for March 17, 2014

I decided to stop numbering these reflections.  It's pretentious, a scorecard--let's see how many I can do!

Last night I was walking Nala at the high school.  At dusk the deer come out on the property around the school's parking lots.  There were at least a dozen of them, and they are small; some were does.  They are probably more tolerant of humans than they should be.  Nala wanted to chase them, badly, so I let her, since no one was on the premises--there was a misty rain and it was Sunday night.   She bolted as soon as I unleashed her, but she only ran to where they had been and then went to explore something else, eventually returning to my call.  The deer, of course, were gone in a second, but as we walked the perimeter of the parking lot, they returned.  I did not let Nala go again, much as she wanted to.  I decided doing so was mean.

So we stood and looked at each other, about 50 feet.  They looked at me with a mixture of expectation, fear, naivete, and ignorance.  What were they thinking?  What was Nala thinking?  Natural enemies, of course.  The descendant of wolves and the descendants of real, wild deer, staring each other down, not wanting and wanting to do exactly what their instincts tell them to do, and have, since time immemorial.  That does not change.  Animal nature does not change.  Dogs will chase deer (especially a pent-up, hyper pitbull) and deer will leap away.

Only humans can reflect, change, imagine a difference, decide.  Nala would not hold back; only I could hold her back on the basis of a moral decision that the deer should not be tortured like that, even if she could never catch them.  The deer have even less will than she does. 

All this has to do with Lent.  Christ stepped into history to make a change, but one foreordained.  We can decide because we can imagine a difference.  We can reflect and be reflexive about this difference, this non-instinct, this possibility.  Yet we are far less powerful than we think.

I was reading this morning from a popular evangelical book (named before) and I was struck again by how glibly we talk and write about God, who numbers the hairs on our head and keeps the world in balance at the atomic level, the atomic particle level.  That is perhaps the charm and the bane of evangelicalism, that we have some sort of "personal relationship" with God and therefore think we have Him figured out.  We should, especially now, step back and remember the mystery rather than the knowledge. The Bible is what God wants us to know, not everything there is to know; it says so itself.  Let's stop this know-it-all attitude that is so off-putting and unrealistic.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reflections on Lent, #10

The two themes that I keep coming back to this season are journey and worship, which aren't entirely separate or entirely connected.  It seems that worship should have more of a wholistic reality to it: the spirit, the mind, the emotions, the will, and the body engaged.  Most of what goes on in a worship service tends toward the mind, I think, and in some places the emotions, but the body, spirit, and will are less likely to be engaged.  It is the worship leader's responsibility to create certain conditions, but even the perfect conditions will not create worship if the will is not engaged, if the worshipers do not come with a will to worship.  Worship is not a show or performance for the watchers, although that seems like the norm today.  Worship should be the central act of our life, but as Peterson says, it is not to satisfy our hearts for God, but to whet our appetite for God. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Reflections on Lent, #9

I am reading Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach.  He writes:  By identity I mean an evolving nexus where all the forces that constitute my life converge in the mystery of the self:  my genetic makeup, the nature of the man and woma who gave me life, the culture in which I was raised, people who have sustained me and people who have done me harm, the good and ill I have done to to others and to myself, the experience of love and suffering--and much, much more.  In the midst of that complex field, identity is a moving intersection of the inner and outer forces that make me who I am, converging in the irreducible mystery of being human.

Identity, I am glad to say, is complex and shifting from a human standpoint.  The sages of the age say that life is all about change.  That is a good and bad thing; it is a truth I can embrace and yet one I reject.  Embracing it means I can change and I can have hope that what I am and how things are now don't and won't have to be this way.  But . . . if I do not have hope in a changeless Christ, than all the rest is meaningless and a delusion.

Reflections on Lent, #8

I have missed a day, I confess.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet, 
sorrow and love flow mingled down. 
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, 
or thorns compose so rich a crown. 

Were the whole realm of nature mine, 
that were an offering far too small; 
love so amazing, so divine, 
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts' classic poem about the cross, asks me to do what I don't want to do--
really, really survey, examine, look deeply, understand the geography of the 
suffering Christ on the cross.  "Sorrow and love" are what he asks us to see.  The 
blood in itself represents both the violent death at the hands of Roman 
authorities and complicit mankind, and the sacrificial require-
ments of the Old Testament.  Here, the blood is also symbolic of the love and 
sorrow, which is an interesting thought.  Love and sorrow come together at the
cross.  Love, that Christ was willing to do this for humankind, and sorrow, that
he had to and sorrow about all the evil and pain that sin has wrecked on us.
We live in such a sinful world that we don't even recognize the effects of sin, 
of our own self-addiction, only the really bad cases.
Last night I watched the rather hard to watch film, Flight, by Robert Zemeckis
and starring Denzel Washington. It puts sin in the viewer's face and also its
consequences.  For that I liked it, but wish I didn't have to go through so much
to see it.  At the same time the fact that it shows the sin so blatantly sort of 
outweighs the point about the consequences. 
"Or thorns compose so rich a crown."  I don't think I understand this part. 
Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of the humiliation of Christ with a full knowledge
of his being.  A king killed by his people for their own good.  The crown of thorns
is the best we can do, perhaps.  We are told these are not rose thorns, but several-
inch long spikes from some middle eastern plant.  Everything we think in Western
culture about the cross is much less than it was; our comfortable lives sanitize
everything.  His visage was marred to unrecognizability, Isaiah 53 tells us.
The last verse of Watts' hymn speaks for itself.  He uses the subjunctive mode 
because he's talking about an impossibility, a statement contrary to present, past, 
and future fact.  But he ends with the truth:  Christ and what he did demands my
life, my soul, my all.  This cuts to my heart because I fall so very short of this 
response.  My life is characterized by more holding back from Christ than letting to.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reflections on Lent, #7

To continue the hymn from a couple of days ago . . .. 
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, 
Save in the death of Christ, my God; 
all the vain things that charm me most, 
I sacrifice them to his blood. 
See, from his head, his hands, his feet, 
sorrow and love flow mingled down. 
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, 
or thorns compose so rich a crown. 

Were the whole realm of nature mine, 
that were an offering far too small; 
love so amazing, so divine, 
 demands my soul, my life, my all.
The second stanza (first above) is a scripture, from the writings of Paul. 
May the only glory in my life be the glory of the cross, which contradicts
all human ideas of glory--it is glory turned upside down.
All the vain things that charm me most.  I think that Isaac Watts wrote this
something like 250 years ago, or more.  How many more vain, charming things 
do we have now?  Sacrificing those to his blood (not a word choice I would 
make) seems too easy--why not sacrifice vain things that charm us?  Because 
although we can dismiss them, intellectually, as vain, in our hearts, they 
charm us.  If we really sacrificed them, we'd have to root them out of our 
hearts as well as our minds.
I will comment on the third and fourth tomorrow.  I think this is one of the
most important hymns in terms of Easter. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reflections on (and for) Lent, #6

Last night on a popular news program that host talked about what Catholics give up for Lent.  I rolled my eyes.  Misinformed news people!

I am reading, finally, Parker Palmer's book, The Courage to Teach.  It is, well, not convicting, because I doubt that is what he wants and I am getting tired of framing everything in terms of sin or not sin.  But it is challenging, because while I am a teacher and it takes up the biggest amount of my time and effort, I do not reflect on "my self" as a teacher, the integrity and identity aspect of it.  I focus on creating conditions for learning, which is a good thing, but take myself out of the equation.  I dismiss it because I know I have the charisma of a Bic pen, and I don't want my students to remember me but the big ideas of the course.  I say that--but I do want them to remember me just as I want to, and try to remember them, which is very difficult since I've had well over 2,000, maybe 3,000 students sit in my classes over the years. 

Identity and integrity are the core of any exploration of the self, though.  What is my identity as a Christian and how to I keep integrity--wholeness--in that process.  I think that is the message of the journey to the cross called Lent.  Now, the doing of it, is a different matter. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reflections on Lent, #5

I am reading Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  Today, from p. 54, I quote:

"I have put great emphasis on the fact that Christians worship because they want to, not because they are forced to.  But I have never said they worship because they feel like it.  Feelings are great liars.  If Christians worshiped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship.  Feelings are imporant in many areas but completely unreliable in matters of faith.  Paul Scherer is laconic:  'The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.'

"We live in what one writer has called the 'age of sensation.'  We think that if we don't feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it.  But the wisdom of God says something different:  that we can act ourselves into a new way of feelings much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting."

Lent is not about feeling our way to the cross.  It is about a choice of focus, despite how we might feel.  I daresay that in his flesh Jesus did not look forward to the cross, because as God he was feeling the full weight of sin for the first time, not just nails and lashes (as horrific as that was).  Feelings are wonderful parts of life, but not the basis of it. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reflections for Lent, #4

Recently it seems that I have been surrounded by messages using the metaphor that life is a journey.  All metaphors are imperfect but informative.  Journey implies:  destination, a best path for getting there, temptations to get off the path, effort to move forward and stay on the path, need for companions (since no one in the ancient world, especially a woman, would travel alone wisely), places of rest, and sense of progression (we are getting closer).

If our use of the metaphor is missing any of these elements, what does that mean? 

We Christians think of the destination as heaven, but I could argue that.  Jesus spoke a great deal about this life; the whole Bible does, as well as speaking about heaven.  Our destination is spiritual as much as eternal.  Jesus is the way, not just the one who shows the way.  There are daily temptations to take detours or even more to stop and not continue the path; I think we are not usually honest about how tempting apostasy is.  We must make decisions; the effort is not a physical and mental exertion as much as a denial of our own will.  We need companions, despite the "Jesus and me" theology.  Rest is not valued and seen as sin in and of itself, and I believe it's perfectly fine to recognize and assess how far we have come.

Quote for the day, "There is something morally repulsive about modern activist theories which deny contemplation and recognize nothing but struggle.  For them not a single moment has value in itself, but it is only a means for what follows."  Nicolas Berdyaev. 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Reflections for Lent, #3

This Sunday we observe Daylight Savings Time.  I really don't know why, when we've thrown out so many traditions that marked 20th century American life, we haven't gotten rid of this one.  Not to be a curmudgeon, but what is that point? If changing the times when we switched the clocks has made a difference in energy consumption--which I am all for--why switch the clocks at all? By the previous sentence I mean that when I was a kid we changed the Sunday before Halloween and the last Sunday in April--six months of each.  Now it's not even spring yet!

So, I sound like a curmudgeon, what I don't want, although I'm curmudgeonly today due to an annoying experience in my doctoral class yesterday and the fact I lost an hour of sleep.  I do like lots of sunshine, though.  DST is exacerbated for us by the fact that we are fifteen miles, as the crow flies, from the next time zone, which puts us in our own strange little time vortex.  Curmudgeonliness is a step away from lack of empathy and compassion.

What does this have to do with Lent?  I have been thinking this week about the relationship between grace and wisdom.  I started out thinking of them as, well, not polar opposites but as complementary.  If you ask for wisdom, and use it, you won't need grace.  That is, you won't do a lot of stupid stuff you will regret and need to ask forgiveness for. Now I see that grace is the overriding truth, quality of God in our lives, and wisdom comes to us because of his grace.  Wisdom is a function of his grace.  Wisdom is prevenient--preventative grace, perhaps.

I need thee every hour, your grace and wisdom, in this time of Lent and evermore.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Reflections on Lent, #2, March 8

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died.
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

This is a song, a verse we should examine.  "Survey" is not to just look.  I think of "survey" as what a surveyor does, to understand a geography.  What is the geography of the cross?  It is where the Prince of glory died.  All the depictions of Christ on the cross in movies or TV shows are just overdone, bloody scenes because they cannot depict him as the Prince of glory.  When we understand who is dying on the cross, we are in a place to count our so-called great accomplishments what they are. 

I am working hard to get a doctoral degree.  It is meaningless to me unless I know its value in comparison to the Prince of glory. In light of such, it is not hard to pour contempt on my pride, which is what we give up at Lent.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Reflections on Lent, #1

Yesterday was the first day of Lent.  My original plan was to post a reflection every day.  I am of course behind, as usual.  But if I do this for personal reasons, so be it.  I hope it is meaningful to others, and not just the spammers.

The first question is always 'What are you going to give up for Lent?' Nothing.  That's missing the point.  Lent is about repentance, not dieting; about looking toward redemption weekend, as you might call it, not self-discipline.  It's not about talking about what we give up either.

We should give up our self-sufficiency and self-focused.  We should give up prayerlessness.  We should give up apathy.

Lent is about a daily walk.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Gullible Christians

I consider this one of the biggest sins of the church in the U.S. today. 

Gullibility means we are like children.  We don't question, we don't discern.  Proverbs, which I am teaching this week. is not about living a good life; it's about a life of the mind that leads to a good life.  Judging, evaluating.  At no other time has a call to repent from gullibility been so necessary.

Why are we so gullible?  So taken up with fame, whether it's a movie star who says they are Christians, or a megachurch pastor, or a politician who wants us to live a way he/she does not?  So quick to believe the worst in people, or the best?  So influenced by pictures and music, so emotionally driven without a basis in fact and reality.

North Korea: What took the UN and media so long?

While this is an incredibly serious subject, I can't help being just the least snarky about this post.  Finally, finally, the UN has finally acknowledged what the Christian world has known and said for twenty or more years--the unnameable atrocities committed by the ruling family of North Korea.

Shame on the UN and media for taking so long to report this and doing nothing about it.  Bravo that they finally did.  Now, what do we do about it?

Several years ago I decided to pray daily (which I have often failed to do, but the goal still stands) for the "persecuted church," which is a code name for oppression of Christians in North Korea (the worst), Middle Eastern countries, South Asian countries, parts of Europe and Africa--well, I could go on.  I would encourage, call, admonish all to do so.  I only wish I had more wisdom about what to do practically.  I wrote a book about it.  Big whoop.  Awareness is the start, I am told.  We cannot afford to be ignorant--or gullible.

The same could be said about our total ignorance of the situation in Iraq.  That is what my book is about.  

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Son of God Movie--Can't We All Just Get Along?

Since Rodney King uttered those words in the aftermath of the riots that followed his abuse at the hands of LAPD in 1992, two people have used that plaintive cry.  One, to ask honestly why we can't put aside petty differences and find peace, and two, those who use the plaintive phrase ironically.  In other words, as smart butts.

Which category do I and this post fall into?  Well . . .  keep reading and decide.

Because I am in the middle of a doctoral program and teaching two new classes this semester, my blogging has been minimal.  However, we are coming up on Lent, and I like to post daily during Lent and Advent--odd for a Baptist, I suppose.  What I "give up" for Lent (what a joke, as if middle class Americans really give up anything) is media for more time for spiritual pursuits, one of which is blogging reflections about the redemptive season, as I'll call it.  I am also on spring break (yes, I know, it's not spring and it was 20 degree wind chill in North Georgia last night), so I have a little time.  I just spoke at a conference this morning and it was a load off my back and heart, so I'll indulge.

Perusing Facebook, I came across a post that linked to the following.

Now, this writer, whose name I could not find on the blog anywhere (but that might be my oversight, so look for yourself) pulls no punches in his/her critique of the Roma Downey/Mark Burnett film Son of God, which I learned yesterday, did $26 Million this last weekend, just behind the Liam Neeson airplane movie that also stars Michelle Dockery, cashing in on Downton Abbey fame.  Clearly, I know way too much about this stuff.  I should  use all that brainpower and space to learn another foreign language!

The blogger details Roma Downey's New Age connections.  I wasn't surprised by that, really.  This blogger seems to have done his/her homework and a great deal of research to indict the doctrinal purity of the film's producers.  However, the real target of the blogger's rhetoric is the "New Age-friendly' megachurch pastors such as Osteen, Jakes, and Warren  and even Focus on the Family, who promote the film to Christian people. 

My first response was, "Well, I wasn't going to go to the movie anyway, and I didn't watch that miniseries about the Bible, so I guess I pass this blog's heresy test."  Now I'm being snarky.  In all seriousness, I agree with his/her arguments pretty much wholeheartedly.  What bothered me, though, was that I couldn't get a real sense of what the blogger's positions were other than what he/she is against, not for.  We can defend so much that we offend; we can be fighting so many dragons that we don't realize what we are standing on, like the cartoon characters.

Plus, that guy who plays Jesus is goofy-looking.  Bring back Jim Caviezel.  He's a man's man. He's a "bad a--," as my son says.   His portrayal of Jesus did not look like a teenage wimp.

My larger question is "Why do we evangelical Christians need to be affirmed by Hollywood?"  Why do we need a movie at the theaters to make us feel accepted?  Why do we expect Hollywood to get the Bible right?  Why do we rush to the theater to pay  money for these things.  The Jesus Movie, used all over the world for evangelism, would make more sense.  Why are we so gullible?  Do we need a screen that much to complete our imaginations?  And,  how oh how, could the church have survived 2000 years without Roma Downey and Mel Gibson? 

Hollywood is first and foremost about money.  Jesus had some things to say about that as a substitute god.  The Downeys and Gibsons cultivate the gullible evangelicals to make a profit; they are good businesspeople.  And I don't doubt they have some respect for Jesus, in some way.

To answer my question in the title, probably not.  I won't be going; I also didn't go to The Passion of the Christ, although I think he did some beautiful artistic things with it from the scenes I did view.  I will look for Jesus in the pages of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.  I will not let him be tamed by Hollywood or my own desires for a God who fits my lifestyle.

Text of my presentation at Southern States Communication Conference on Open Educational Resources

On April 8 I spoke at SSCA on the subject of Open Educational Resources.  Here is the text of my remarks. The University System of Geo...