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Spider-man 3

May 5, 2007

Spider-man 3 has already broken numerous box office records, both in the United States and abroad.  With little wonder, too.  This third installment to the “greatest comic book series in movie history,” although filled with some of the most spectacular special effects you’ve ever seen, does not go the way of typical summer blockbusters in dazzling audiences’ senses while neglecting their hearts and minds.  While undeniably dazzling, Spider-man 3 also teaches some of the best lessons I’ve seen in a major Hollywood production.

The movie is replete with Christian themes.  The primary storyline (as anyone who has watched the fantastic trailer over and over again will know) centers around Peter Parker’s struggle with his “darker side,” trying to keep his anger and desire for revenge under control.  The movie could have easily gone downhill from there, letting Spider-man become a darker “hero” by embracing his new dark power.  The thing that makes this movie (and the other two Spider-man movies) worthwhile, however, is that Spider-man overcomes his weaknesses.  As World Magazine notes, Spider-man isn’t like Superman (who has a child out of wedlock) or the super sexy X-men; rather, Spider-man (unlike so many modern superheroes) is a real hero.  He’s human and he struggles, but in the end he makes the right choices and is a noble character.  Forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and waiting until one is ready for marriage are just a few of the other important messages that this movie conveys while keeping you splendidly entertained.  It is definitely a rousing finale to this series’ initial trilogy and, I must say, I won’t be disappointed to see future sequels, as long as the series keeps its positive trend.

 And now, I have something of a confession to make.  At times, after watching a really great movie, I tend to be rather down afterwards.  It’s not like I’m depressed or sad about it — oftentimes this happens after the happiest movies.  Some examples would be The Return of the King, Pride and Prejudice, the Love Comes Softly series, and now Spider-man 3.  Initially I put this dull aching that comes after watching these movies down to sundry little reasons — my want for romance (after watching Love Comes Softly) or my desire to go and live an adventure (after watching The Lord of the Rings, of course).  I guess I could also contribute this ache after watching Spider-man to my infantile wish to be a superhero (or my wish that there were superheroes).  But after analyzing it most of today, I think I’ve solved the mystery.  This ache comes from wanting something more in the world — wishing that we could have happy endings like we see in the movies, wishing that there were superheroes, wishing that all would turn out well in the end.  Basically, it’s a longing for Good.  Because that wish can’t really be fulfilled here, the denied want becomes a subtle pain, or one that can even be sharp at times.  I call this “post super good movie syndrome.”  C. S. Lewis called it Joy.  I think that any movie that inspires this Joy in us, as Spider-man 3 did in me, is definitely worth watching.

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Fitting the Mold?

April 28, 2007

Today I submitted my essay for the Holocaust Remembrance essay contest.  I’ve been working on and stressing over the essay for quite some time, so it’s a big relief to have it done.  (Now I just have the suspenseful wait until June 1 to see if anything will come of my efforts!)  I read one of the winning essays from last year and, although it was very well-written and moving, was struck by its political correctness.  The author basically states that to avoid future Holocausts we must “strive toward a world of acceptance and celebration of human diversity.”  I’m not against tolerance, acceptance, and diversity, and I also mentioned this in the essay I just submitted.  The winning essay I read immediately afterwards states, “It is an embarrassment to our evolution as a species that in 2006, we still witness hate in our world.”  The evolution of our species?  Diversity, acceptance, open minds and hearts?  All these things (excluding evolution) are good, but doesn’t it sound just slightly politically correct?  I realized after reading this essay that the judges of this contest probably don’t share my worldview, and this opened the temptation for me to mold my essay to fit what I think they would find more appealing — namely, “love, peace, and all that jazz.”

I rewrote the concluding paragraph to my essay three times.  The first time it mentioned tolerance and acceptance somewhat.  The second time it had a much stronger emphasis on the subject.  (Pretty much, I was caving into the temptation to be politically correct and write what the judges want to hear rather than what I really believe.)  The third rewrite came as a result of my dad’s insistence that I watch this video (or the trailer for it, actually).  I finally decided that it was more important to write about the impending threat of another Holocaust at the hands of radical Muslims than try to win the essay contest.  Am I hoping that I might still win a decent place in the contest?  Absolutely.  But I decided that it wasn’t worth it to sell my soul (my convictions and beliefs) for the sake of at most $10,000.  I’ll stand by what I think needs to be said rather than what I think the judges want to hear.  Perhaps my essay will be passed over as a result of this decision, but so help me God.  This may sound like nothing but indulgent self-promotion, but it took a hard struggle for me to decide to do what I believed was right over what I thought was an easier way.  I want to encourage you to do the same!

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The Forgotten and Endangered Species

April 27, 2007

A couple of days ago I was shocked to hear a country song playing on the radio as I pulled our car into the garage at night — country music is very rare in Mexico.  I really liked the sound of the song, even though I only caught the last 15 seconds of it, and therefore went and bought it from iTunes (oh, the wonder of modern technology!).  The song, by Kenny Rogers, is called “Coward of the County” and it’s really good.  Basically, it tells the story of a man (named Tommy) who goes through life known as the “coward of the county” because of his refusal to ever get into a fight.  His father told him that “You don’t have to fight to be a man” and encouraged him to live peacefully.  When Tommy is wronged in a very personal and hurtful way, however, (I’ll let you find out exactly how by listening to the song), he realizes that he must do something to preserve his honor.  At the end of the song, Tommy finally realizes that “Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man.”  (Kinda goes along nicely with Man on Fire and Casino Royale, no?)  Try listening to the whole song here (if you live within the United States) — it’s much more effective than reading my little summary of the thing 😉

So after discovering this song that in a way celebrates manhood, today I listened to the 42nd episode of Ryan Dobson’s podcast.  The main theme he addresses in this great episode (probably his best yet) is — you guessed it! — manhood.  Ryan bemoans how feminism and modern culture have emasculated the vast majority of men today, telling them that they’re stupid and should look to women for advice and leadership.  According to the Bible, though, this is wrong!  Men were made for leadership, and they should not be afraid of themselves and go running to women to tell them what to do.  I won’t do all the ranting, though — I’ll leave that to Ryan.  If you’re interested in what it means to be a man and want to hear someone’s passionate discourse on the subject, download the podcast.  It’s really worth a listen.  I found it particularly interesting that Ryan mentions the book 6 Rules Every Man Must Break and says that the first rule is “The Rule of Passivity: Never Get In a Fight.”  Sometimes it’s necessary to fight if you’re going to preserve your manhood. Kinda like Tommy…  Anyway, here’s a video that Ryan made on the subject — it’ll give you a hint as to what the title of this post is referring to, if you haven’t already guessed 🙂

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Man on Fire

April 26, 2007

In compliance with a recommendation from my older brother, I watched Man on Fire a couple of weekends ago.  Because no one else in my family was really interested in or allowed to watch this movie, I watched it one listless Saturday afternoon by myself.

The movie was definitely entertaining.  I found it quite humorous (in a sad way) that there was so much corruption portrayed in Mexico’s government and authorities because I know that this is true.  But then again, Man on Fire is not light fare.  It deals with the very serious and sad subject of kidnappings and murder.  Man on Fire is the kind of movie that you watch to feel inspired or changed.  It’s a movie that really makes you think.

I’ve been wondering if what Denzel Washington’s character of Creasy did in the story is justifiable or not.  Basically, after the girl he was hired to protect gets kidnapped, Creasy goes on a rampage, killing most of those involved with the kidnapping.  Yes, the girl’s family tried to get her back lawfully at first, but when the man in charge of the operation turned out to be in cahoots with the kidnappers, it is the last straw for Creasy.  As a friend of my brother’s soberly remarked to him, it would almost seem that Mexico City needs a professional assassin to go through the underground and weed out the many evil people involved in murders and kidnappings, for up to this point the government has seemed unable to.

So does the fact that his bloody work is necessary justify what Creasy does?  Probably not.  But then, the Bible does command that kidnappers should be put to death, and if the government (which holds the sword to execute this judgment) is too corrupt to do anything, who will?  It is a question that is really worth pondering. Besides, I think the movie’s themes shows that it is not just mindless entertainment about killings and death.  Ultimately, while it deals a lot with both these subjects, the main themes in Man on Fire are about redemption and life.  The ending to the movie is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Man on Fire isn’t a perfect movie, and it isn’t a lighthearted, fun movie either.  But it’s a movie worth watching because it reminds us that, no matter how dark our past is, there’s always a second chance to be found in love.

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Was the Holocaust the Result of Intolerance?

April 25, 2007

As I have been working a lot lately on a paper about the Holocaust, I’ve also been thinking quite a bit about tolerance and discrimination.  Was the Holocaust caused because of discrimination and intolerance on the part of the Germans?  I think that one would have to answer that yes, it was; it is undeniable that most Germans during the World War II era were blatantly anti-Semitic.  It was this anti-Semitism that spurned Hitler and the Germans to attempt to “purify” the Aryan race by removing the Jews from it.  Take a look at this snippet from Daniel Goldhagen’s book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners:

[Germans] had been weaned and fed on existing antisemitic culture, still heavily informed by the traditional Christian conception of Jews. This was now overlaid with a set of new charges — that the Jews […] worked against German national goals, that they were undoing the social order, that they were the source of the dislocation of the changing economy and society, to name but a few.

Now I’m not sure what Goldhagen is referring to as the “traditional Christian conception of Jews” — from my understanding of the Bible, Christians should respect and honor Jews as God’s chosen people.  (I suppose I could do a little research into this “Christian conception” referenced by Goldhagen, but I’ll put that off for another time.)  In today’s culture, however, where tolerance is preached to such an extreme that I actually want to be intolerant, seeing that the Holocaust occurred mainly because of hatred and discrimination against a minority is indeed sobering.

Does that mean that I believe the world is right in preaching unlimited tolerance today?  Absolutely not.  I love the title to Ryan Dobson‘s first book: Be Intolerant: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid.  Yes, I believe tolerance is important to a certain extent and in some situations, but in others it is precisely what needs to be avoided.  Just what are these distinctions and specific situations that dictate whether tolerance is appropriate or not?  Stay tuned to find out 🙂

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Bono’s Genuine Faith

April 24, 2007

It has been awhile since I’ve been able to blog, and I apologize.  Homework, essays, and laziness do get in the way of everyday or even frequent posting, I’m afraid.  Anyway, enough remorsefulness about the fact that I don’t have unlimited time to blog and to the subject of this post!

Over a month ago (sorry!), I posted my comments and analysis of some of U2’s lyrics from their CD How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.  I was particularly interested in lyrics that seem vaguely spiritual in nature.  I had heard on several occasions that Bono is a real Christian, but I did not know how to verify whether or not his faith is, in fact, bona fide.  Granted, I did know that Bono is actively involved in fighting AIDS and poverty worldwide; I should know, since I own a (Product) Red iPod Nano (which Apple, Inc. produced in order to earn money for the Global Fund which fight AIDS worldwide).  I’m not sure about the exact connection, but I know that Bono is in some way connected to and involved with this Global Fund.  Anyway, the fact remains that Bono is at the forefront of many charitable causes, yet that does not prove his Christianity.

Imagine my interest, then, when I ran across this post at The Point:

You’ve seen him trotting around shopping for Red products with Oprah. You’ve heard about how the Pope wanted to wear his sunglasses. Now you can read about Bono’s very real faith, a faith which he shares so openly and eloquently that he does the very best thing possible–makes non-believers wish for a God like the one he believes in.

The post describes a little more about Bono’s faith and then links to this very insightful article by Steve Beard that takes a closer look at Bono’s Christianity.  I was particularly impressed by the fact that Bono’s father recognized that Bono has a genuine relationship with God, something that his father claims he could never achieve:

At the height of his success and fame, Bono and his father would often go down to a local pub and drink Irish whiskey on Sunday afternoons. On one occasion his father told him, “There’s one thing I envy of you. I don’t envy anything else. You do seem to have a relationship with God.” Bono asked: “Didn’t you ever have one?” “No,” he said. “But you have been a Catholic for most of your life,” Bono responded. “Yeah, lots of people are Catholic. It was a one-way conversation. . . . You seem to hear something back from the silence!” Bono said: “That’s true, I do.”

Bono not only affirms that he does indeed have a personal relationship with God, but in the article he goes on to describe in very clear terms the faith that he has in Jesus Christ.  As I read the article, I was struck by the powerful way in which this mega rock star articulates his faith in Christ, probably even better than I do!  And, while speaking about Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins, Bono demonstrates that he clearly understands that salvation does not come through good deeds.

It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven.

I feared that Bono — as many rich people do — was seeking to buy his way into Heaven through his charitable works.  Reading Mr. Beard’s article, however, showed me that Bono does truly understand Christian doctrine and theology in a way that I would never have guessed.  If you still have any doubts about Bono’s genuine faith, I encourage you to take a look at the article I linked to above.  It’s good to be reassured that there are real Christians in influential Christian positions — way to go, Bono!

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Interpreting U2

March 22, 2007

I recently bought U2‘s latest album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, from the iTunes music store.  I’ve been interested in U2 for some time, but had never actually bought any of their music.  (I’m fully aware that U2 has released a CD of 18 of their singles after How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, but U218 Singles is not really a new album, is it?)  Anyway, I am quite pleased to finally possess my own U2 CD and thus be able to familiarize myself with the group.  I liked the CD quite a bit, too.  Songs range from calm and pensive (A Man and a Woman, One Step Closer) to more upbeat, rocky tunes (Vertigo, Love and Peace or Else, All Because of You).  I’m not going to go into a full review of the album (I would have to listen to it a few more times to write a fair one), but would rather like to highlight two songs that impressed me with their seemingly spiritual lyrics.  The first is the aforementioned “All Because of You.”  When I first listened to this track without really thinking about the lyrics, I mistook it for an ordinary love song.  Upon closer listening, however, a certain part of the song struck me as a bit odd.  Here are the lyrics for the chorus:

All because of you
All because of you
All because of you
I am, I am

Without the music, that seems a bit repetitive and not too profound.  Here’s the first verse to the same song:

I was born a child of grace
Nothing else about the place
Everything was ugly but your beautiful face
And it left me no illusion
I saw you in the curve of the moon
In the shadow cast across my room
You heard me in my tune
When I just heard confusion

Basically, after listening to the song a bit more carefully, I started to think that perhaps this is a song thanking God for all he has done in Bono’s life.  There is no clear meaning on why Bono wrote “All because of you / I am, I am” because he doesn’t go on to describe what he is “because of you.”  Rather, I wondered if perhaps Bono is referring to I AM, the Christian God.  The first verse doesn’t seem to be talking about any person, but rather (I believe) presents a possible depiction of God.  Bono does say, “I was born a child of grace,” which could be a reference to his conversion to Christianity.  PluggedIn seems to share my opinion about this song, for they mention in their review of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb that “‘All Because of You’ thanks God for life itself.”

The second song that really struck me as being explicitly Christian in this album is “Yahweh.”  These lyrics do not need that much interpretation — they are clearly referring to Yahweh, the God of the Bible.  I thought that, coming from a secular group, this song was very profound.  The lyrics sound more Christian than the lyrics of a lot of Christian songs I own!  Take a look at the first verse of the song:

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing

The last verse, however, is even deeper in my opinion:

Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city
If it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break

Wow!  Bono is pleading with Yahweh to break his hard heart and make his soul sing.  Besides being a very catchy song, the lyrics are great.  These songs are just some evidence that Bono is, in fact, a genuine Christian.  I’m working on an article that details more of his faith, but that is coming a little later (not too much later, I promise!)  Until I post that, pick up (or legally download) a copy of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb — it’s a wonderful album.