Archive for February, 2007

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A World Without America

February 23, 2007

One of my favorite blogs to read is WorldViews, the blog of World Magazine.  I usually don’t like to just repeat stories that I have read on other blogs and websites, but prefer to write my own original content for my blog.  Today, however, I decided that I will repeat a story I read elsewhere…  The contributors to WorldViews linked to a great short video entitled “A World Without America.”  As they wrote in their brief description of the video,

Europeans, especially the British, take in a steady media diet of American-is-to-blame-for-everything. Now media coverage of an ad called “A World Without America” is on the rise.

Quite simply, the video (you can visit its official website here) reminds the world just what kind of a state they would be in if America had never existed.  In a day when America is hated and scorned by so many people, it’s refreshing to see the good that this country has done.  True, the United States isn’t perfect; in fact, it’s in quite a sorry state at the moment.  Remember, though, the good that it has done, and be inspired to make it again what it once was!  You can watch the video below (courtesy, of course, of YouTube).

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Wheaton Graduates? Yikes!

February 21, 2007

On Monday my dad brought home a pile of mail which included several old issues of World Magazine.  (What can I say?  Mail tends to pile up when you only pick it up once a month or so…)  Anyway, today I was perusing one of the magazines (the January 27, 2007 issue with Hillary Clinton all over the cover, to be exact) and I ran across an interesting article about “Classroom Christianity” (subscription required).  While I did find the article informative and interesting, this post is not about that article.  Rather, I’d like to draw attention to a paragraph from the article that caught my eye:

Taking a class from Bart Ehrman, for example, could come with risks.  Ehrman, a popular professor who teaches New Testament studies at UNC, recently authored Misquoting Jesus, a textual criticism of the New Testament that denies the Bible’s inerrancy and casts doubts on Jesus’ divinity.  The book was a New York Times bestseller.  Ehrman, a former evangelical who graduated from the Wheaton College, abandoned his Christian beliefs after studying at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Besides being surprised by the oxymoronic nature of the statement that Mr. Ehrman abandoned his Christian beliefs after studying at a seminary, I was somewhat disturbed by the fact that World claims he graduated from “the Wheaton College.”  Now, I know that there are in fact two Wheaton Colleges, one in Wheaton, IL, and another in Norton, MA.  So, before I started panicking over this newfound information, I decided to google Mr. Ehrman and see what I came up with.  The results confirmed my fears, for a Wikipedia article on Mr. Ehrman similarly states that he is a graduate of the Christian Wheaton College.  I, however, do not trust Wikipedia as absolute proof about anything, so I continued to dig.  When I stumbled upon UNC’s web page about Mr. Ehrman, however, the fact was indisputably confirmed: Mr. Ehrman did graduate from the Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.

I find it rather sad that this man, who has doubtless caused many to question the Bible and Jesus Christ’s divinity through his bestselling Misquoting Jesus, is a graduate of Wheaton College.  Wheaton’s motto is, after all, “For Christ and His Kingdom.”  I’m not saying that this man’s works against Christ’s Kingdom are a result of his attending Wheaton; I would attribute that more to his studying at Princeton.  However, it still doesn’t look too good for Wheaton that this heretic is a graduate of that school. 

This uncovering of a rather uncommon Wheaton grad reminded me of another embarrassing graduate that my older brother told me about when I visited the college.  Upon some more research (isn’t the Internet wonderful?) I discovered him: Wes Craven.  I remembered my brother telling me about a Wheaton graduate who, after leaving the school, went “somewhat crazy” and now makes awful horror movies — not the typical profession of a former Wheaton student.  Clicking on a few of the movies that IMDb lists under this man’s filmography revealed that they are, in fact, not-so-pleasant-looking horror flicks.  Another Wheaton student who went rather strange in the head…

Now, I’m not blasting Wheaton or anything — I know that they have produced myriads of well-educated, strong Christian men and women who have impacted the world positively for Christ’s Kingdom.  I’m certain you could find black sheep from any Christian university; it’s just a matter of looking for them.  Nevertheless, I’m beginning to get a little concerned for my older brother, who is now studying at Wheaton.  I’ll be even more worried if he mentions plans to write books or direct movies anytime soon.

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Casino Royale: A Movie for Real Guys

February 20, 2007

I rarely go to see a movie more than once at the theater.  I admit, I did see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe three times, but that was (by far!) an exception.  Casino Royale, however, I saw twice.  True, part of the reason for my watching it twice was because we were on vacation and I didn’t have much to occupy my time, but I still wouldn’t have seen it more than once if I didn’t like it.  No, rather, I wouldn’t have seen it twice if I didn’t like it a lot.  I acknowledge that my liking of the movie may be controversial in conservative circles — I know that PluggedIn certainly didn’t like the movie much, but is that any surprise?  I’m not going to go into an argument trying to justify James Bond’s adultery or fornication, because those are definitely wrong actions that were unfortunately included in the movie.  Rather, I want to explore just why James Bond is such an iconic “macho man.”

Basically, I liked Casino Royale because it shows what real men long for.  As anyone who has watched a James Bond movie knows, it contains two basic elements: action and romance.  (Actually, my best friend, older brother and I modeled a trip we took to Veracruz after James Bond movies, hoping to get both action and romantic adventure.  We weren’t disappointed!)  I think John Eldredge says it best in his great book, Wild at Heart:

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul.  They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be.  I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself.  They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.

All three of those desires are found played out in the life of one James Bond, 007, the almost-mystical incarnation of masculinity in the cinema.  Truthfully, what man would not love to be a James Bond?  He punishes the bad guys, is always on the most adventurous and dangerous of missions, and has many beauties a beauty to rescue.  Those are the core desires in a man’s heart, and that is why I liked Casino Royale so much: it presented those desires being lived out in James Bond.

I admit,  he’s by no means the perfect guy.  As I mentioned earlier, he does a lot of things that are just plain wrong and he suffers the effects of them.  (Bond has a great line about the effect killing has had on his soul, but I have unfortunately been unable to find it at the moment.)  In the end, however, he is a guy who is fighting to save innocent people’s lives and I believe he finally finds true love in this movie.  I’m not going to write any more on that subject, since I have dealt briefly with it in an earlier post and I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.  Just remember that James Bond immortalizes the deep desires of men, and that is what makes it a movie for real guys.  I’ll definitely be watching this one again as soon as it comes out on DVD.

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Love’s Inevitable Risk

February 10, 2007

Heartbreak — one of those inevitable disturbances that must happen to everyone as they grow up.  Certainly, it needn’t be heartbreak in a romantic affair: love a dog, and when that dog dies, your heart will break.  Love a gift, a family heirloom, and when you lose that thing you cannot replace, tears will stream down you face (props to Coldplay!).  Actually, I think Coldplay has a lot of wisdom on this subject.  They recognize quite well in their song “What If” that love, by its very nature, is prone to the risk of heartbreak.  Look at what they have to say on the subject (and this is only one verse of the song):

Every step that you take
Could be your biggest mistake.
It could bend or it could break
But that’s the risk that you take.
What if you should decide
That you don’t want me there in your life?
That you don’t want me there by your side?

Coldplay goes on to say that because of this risk, “Let’s take a breath, jump over the side.”  In other words, yes, there is a fundamental risk involved in love, but we can’t let that risk keep us from loving.  I think C. S. Lewis makes this point masterfully in The Four Loves (a book that I haven’t read in its entirety yet, but I will the first chance I get!):

There is no escape along the lines St. Augustine suggests.  Nor along any other lines.  There is no safe investment.  To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

 Wow, that is a long quote, but Lewis captures the essence of love’s risk so poetically that I had to include the whole thing.  For clarity and profundity, there’s no one that can beat C. S. Lewis!  Before I close this assimilated post of sundry quotes on this topic, I thought I would make one last reference.  I watched Casino Royale a couple of weeks ago and it quickly became one of my favorite movies (thoughts on it are coming soon, I promise!).  One thing in particular impacted me about the movie.  Here is James Bond, agent 007, the nearly-invincible Mr. Macho himself.  Who can hurt him?  Yet, in this movie, Mr. Bond finally finds true love (I’m sure some would debate this claim, but I think this is what the filmmakers wanted to communicate at the end of the film).  How does Bond describe this new love he has found?

I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.

Sounds a lot like vulnerability, doesn’t it?  Love is the loss of one’s armor, the opening of one’s heart; what could be more dangerous than that?  Closing one’s self off from love to avoid pain.  As Coldplay melodiously says, “Let’s take a breath, jump over the side.”  Will it hurt?  Most definitely.  But that’s the way it’s done, and there’s no other alternative but Hell.

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Abel’s Predicament

February 6, 2007

To go along with our formal studies in textbooks, 17th century classic texts, and incredibly complex but enlightening scientific experiments for this school year, my family tries to have stimulating conversations during our family dinner times.  Well, during the first week of classes, my ever-pensive younger brother opened his mouth during dinner with a different intent than just putting food into it.  He asked the very interesting question, “Where did Abel go when his brother Cain murdered him?”  (This story can be read in Genesis 4).  After considering the question, my sister and I concluded that Abel must have gone to some intermediate place between death and heaven, a sort of “limbo.”  The reasoning behind this statement was that, since Jesus had not yet died on the cross, Abel’s sins (though temporarily covered by animal sacrifices) were not yet forgiven, for as Hebrews 10:4 says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”  In other words, the blood of animal sacrifices was representative of the blood of Christ that would be shed on the cross, but animal blood itself had no power to forgive sins, and therefore, Abel’s sins at the time of his death were not forgiven and he could not enter Heaven.  In addition to this, before His death on the cross Jesus said to His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).  If there had been a Heaven before Jesus came to earth, He would not have so clearly stated that He was going to prepare such a place.  It would appear, then, that heaven did not exist before Jesus’ death, for no one would have been able to get in before Christ’s blood was shed for their sins.

Well, in light of this rather complex discussion on where Abel probably went when he died and why he went there, I asked my sister to illustrate this for me.  I know that there are those who better grasp difficult ideas through pictures and other visual stimuli, so I have decided to provide explanatory illustrations.  Anyway, without further adieu, I present to you “Cain and Abel.”

(Cain murders Abel…)

(To Abel’s dismay, he finds that Heaven will not open for a couple thousand years.)

DISCLAIMER:  This post, while presenting a very real Biblical story and situation, is somewhat tongue in cheek in nature.  Of course, the author of this blog does not believe that Abel was left stranded at Heaven’s gate for thousands of years — the situation is illustrated in that way simply to make a humorous statement out of a true fact (the fact being that Heaven did not exist before Christ’s death circa 33 A.D.).  There are differing views on what happened at the death of Old Testament saints, and this post does not offer any conclusive evidence for one view over another.  This post is meant merely to entertain in an intelligent manner.

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Vacillations on V for Vendetta

February 3, 2007

I recognize that my thoughts on this movie are long overdue — I stated in an earlier post that I would reflect on movies I watched during Christmas break soon and it has been nearly a month since then.  Clearly, my definition of “soon” is not that of the common man.  In truth, however, I must say that the delay in these reviews has been because of homework and other responsibilities mixed in with a good dose of laziness towards posting on this blog.  That has all changed, however, and I am adopting a more responsible attitude towards this blog.  Thus, after that brief explanation, let me now get down to the subject matter of this post.

When my older brother came down from college for Christmas break, he had a list of movies he had seen with college friends that he wanted to share with us; one of these movies was V for Vendetta.  Before my brother’s hearty recommendation, I had no desire whatsoever to see this film.  I trusted World Magazine’s description of the movie as “Vile” (subscription required) and was not interested in being brainwashed from the movie screen.  My brother, however, tends to have very good taste in movies, so I had to see V for Vendetta after he listed it as one of his all-time favorite movies.  After seeing the movie, my feelings were somewhat mixed.

I must admit, this is one of the best movies I have ever seen.  Everything I can remember about it was excellent — the storyline, the acting (a main protagonist who wears a mask throughout the whole movie yet still comes across well is quite a feat of acting!), the music, the action, the score.  This is one of the greatest works of cinematic art that I have seen (not that I’m claiming vast experience or anything).  Yet I resist listing it as one of my favorite movies — it can be one of the best in quality without being one of my personal favorites.

The reason for my rejection of this movie as a favorite in spite of its inherent quality is because of the ideas it presents.  As I expected, the movie is a sort of political statement against right-wing, conservative Christians.  Homosexuals are portrayed as an oppressed minority that (in the not-too-distant future) will be slain en masse as a result of the government’s loathing of these people.  Also, my brother made the keen observation that the symbol of the ruling government in the movie (which he claimed is representative of the Bush administration) is nothing more than a double cross (see image above right).  A coincidence?  I think that doubtful.

In the end, I vacillated over whether I was right or not about V for Vendetta.  I was definitely right in that it is, to some extent, a political movie that tries to get you to see the world through a secular humanistic worldview.  But, I must admit, I was wrong to avoid watching the movie because of that.  True, many of the ideas it presents are anti-Biblical and anti-Christian, but that doesn’t mean we have to hide from it.  I recommend V for Vendetta for Christians who want to understand how secular liberals see us — it’s rather a scary image.  I will also close with an excellent quote from the film’s protagonist, “V” — it is one of the best quotes I have come across in any movie I have seen:

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

It almost sounds like something straight out of John Locke, a modern rendition of the people’s right to dissolve their government.  Perhaps the filmmakers were not that misguided after all — they recognize the importance of freedom and the terrors of tyranny, yet they incorrectly assume that America’s current government and Christians are going to bring about the government portrayed in this movie.  The movie’s premises are good and correct, but its conclusions are ultimately faulty.  Still, it’s a movie worth watching and thinking about.

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Another C. S. Lewis Movie

February 2, 2007

Anyone who is a fan of the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will probably be fully aware that Walden Media and Disney have started work on the next installment to the Narnia series, Prince Caspian.  This is no surprise — the film is set for a 2008 release.  Having said this, a couple of weeks ago I found an interesting website for reading about upcoming movie sequals and one of the headlines they wrote today surprised me quite a bit.

According to IGN.com, Walden has begun work on a film adaptation (set for release next year) of Lewis’ classic book The Screwtape Letters:

C.S. Lewis may be best known for his Chronicles of Narnia series of books, but with the success of the first Narnia film, it seems Hollywood is ready to start adapting the author’s other works as well. First up: a big screen version of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

I must say I laughed quite loud when I read that.  A movie of The Screwtape Letters?  Of all things!  Lewis wrote many other novels besides The Chronicles of Narnia that would be much easier to adapt into a movie than a collection of letters written by an old, uncle devil to his nephew.  They screenwriters of this movie are going to have to invent a storyline for the movie, I’m afraid.  We shall have to see what the finished result is.  At least the fact that Walden Media is behind the effort gives me confidence that they will make a decent and faithful adaptation of the book.  After Prince Caspian and The Screwtape Letters, though, they really must make a movie of Till We Have Faces.  Now that would be a movie worth seeing!