Friday, December 30, 2005

Finally Saw "Serenity"

My husband got me the DVD of Serenity for Christmas, and now i can finally see the conclusion to the "Firefly" saga. It was a lot of fun and made me think. But, as usual, the thinking got complicated. If you've seen it, did you notice the theological undertones? The villian, a ruthless bounty hunter and agent of the government, believes that he is working to help create "a world without sin." By extension, we are led to believe that the government he represents also believes in, and is trying to create, a world without sin. Noble, but look at how the movie presents that effort:We finally discover that the race of unimaginably barbaric space raiders, known as Reavers, were the accidental by-product of the government's attempt at scientifically creating this world without sin. They had put something in the air at this one colony that was supposed to stop agression. To their horror, most of the people lost all motivation for everything, stopped working, talking, eating, and essentially just laid down and died. The rest of the colonists had the opposite reaction, turning into a band of cannibalistic, self-mutilating, brutal and unrestrained marauders - the reavers.

The antagonist/Governement agent's task is to stop the crew of the Serenity before they discover this fact. The movie implies that attempts to create a perfect world can only result in more harm, and that some level of agression is necessary for a healthy life/society. The hero of the film is Serenity's captain, who openly admits that he favors "all 7" sins and states, "I mean to misbehave." All of this is within the context of fighting for truth and self-preservation, and i am sympathetic to his battles against a corrupt government. But what does this say about the nature of good and evil? Must doing the higher good always be accomplished through sin and lawlessness? Must the pursuit of a better society always be futile? Can a "world without sin" only be achieved through totalitarian governments, the destruction of all who stand in the way, and biological experimentation?

It is as if we are truly ignorant of the possibility that the world could be changed by our self-sacrifice rather than our violence.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cut my hair!!!!

Ok, let me say up front that simple everyday things have a tendency to take on huge significance for me. I got my hair cut today, and yes, it is a big deal.

For those who know me, you already know why. I've had long hair for a decade now and never done much with it. It's been straight and as plain as a blank canvas. And, like a blank canvas, everyone keeps wanting to do things with it :) But today i finally decided to have it cut and layered.

Normally, that's just a huge adjustment for a girl. For me, it's also an opportunity to wonder about the meaning of hair. Why did God give us hair? I remember thinking as a kid that it was really cool of God to give us a part of our body that is so easily customizable. Nearly everyone sees their hair as an opportunity to express themselves or create a certain aesthetic style.

But we're really never told this. What if we're really supposed to leave it alone? What if we're not supposed to alter it (just like some people think you shouldn't alter your skin with tatoos and probably most people think you shouldn't cut off appendages for the fun of it)? I'm pretty sure messing with your hair is ok, but i do wonder a little sometimes.

So anyway, i've done it. I've gone from an extremely plain style that was actually quite unique, to more "updated" style that i fear is just like everyone else. Of course, walking around the mall afterwards, i found very few people with hair similar to mine. I don't think i've just conformed, but I have wondered today.

At the very least, it really stays out of the way better now. So maybe in one decision i've managed to become more feminine and more practical all at once :)

Saw Narnia . . .

Just today we finally got to see the Chronicles of Narnia movie. It was really good. Not quite Lord of the Rings, but still really encouraging. I am so thrilled the movie industry is cranking out more of these good epics.

Recently i was reading something about Feminist Bible interpretation and this lady was saying she always loved the Chronicles of Narnia books until a friend pointed out to her that the girls didn't get to fight. Ever since then, she's felt kind of disenfranchised by the novels. It's like she feels like, as a woman, she's not able to be a full citizen of Narnia, or something like that.

But after watching the movie, i really don't feel the same way. The girls didn't really fight (Susan does shoot someone), but they get to see. The girls were the ones who spent time with Aslan before he was killed, and the only ones who witnessed his resurrection. Little lucy is given the power to heal, and is a flawless model of virtue throughought the story. I don't remember enough about the books to swear that these aspects of the film existed in the books themselves. But Susan and Lucy are just as much citizens and royalty of Narnia as the boys. Their role is different, but just as vital and visible. If anyone recieved less honor, it would have been Edmund. All that to say - i didn't notice any real patriarchalism in the film. And it is worth going to see, if only to encourage the movie industry to put out more films like these.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

P. S. Happy Honda Days????

Continuing my thoughts about the emptiness of Christmas, does it shock anyone else that we have carolers singing "We wish you a happy Honda Day" on TV? I suppose this isn't really that bad. Advertisers make a career out of taking something we already have and re-shaping it to serve their product. RRRGh! there it is again!! (the tv is on in another room)

It's just amazing that "holy days" went to "holidays" to "Honda days." We went from sacred, to sentimental, to purely material.

I'm not really trying to get on to Honda. It's not really that bad that they should run a sale over Christmas and call it Honda days. But it just drives me nuts to see something so holy so emptied of its holiness and forced into the service of business.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas without Jesus isn't just bad - it's boring!

One thing i've noticed this christmas season is that there are only so many different ways you can sing "there's no place like home for the holidays" and "jingle bells." I've heard some of these songs over and over again, almost to the point of being sick of them, and a remarkable dearth of the tradititional Christmas carols. Our church's play practice has kept me out of morning worship this month, too, so i haven't even been able to hear them much in Church. I know it sounds like a cliche' but Christmas without Jesus really feels empty. I pulled out some hymnals the other day and just started reading through the Christmas carols. There is some rich theology and beautiful imagery in them that i've really missed.

When we can't talk about Jesus, everyone knows that Christmas is supposed to be special, but it's like there's this huge black hole where the "why" ought to be. Why do we take a whole month to celebrate love and giving? Umm, because we need to sometime? No wonder people are starting to wonder if Christmas is worth all the effort.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Redemption in Snow

I think every winter i like the cold less and less - maybe i'm just getting old and crabby :) And the less i like cold the more i think about the fact that there probably wasn't winter before there was sin (since they ran around naked). But then eventually i realize that if we never had winter, we'd never have snow. We would have never marvelled about a God so creative and generous to give us trillions of unique snowflakes. We wouldn't have the purity of fresh-fallen snow to remind us of redemption. So even winter seems to be a curse twisted into a blessing.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Maybe the Christmas Season is Supposed to be Stressful

Yesterday, while i was constantly rushing to get things done in time and always feeling 2 steps behind where i needed to be, I realized that the "Christmas Season" has always been stressful, right from its beginning. The very first Christmas was preceded by a very difficult time of preparation: Mary, pregnant for the first time, newly married, probably being judged and gossipped about, having to take a long road trip at an extremely inconvenient time. To top it all off, the trip was to pay taxes, of all things, not for vacation. Imagine Christmas season and tax season rolled into one!

Which all makes me wonder, what if the time leading up to Christmas is actually supposed to be stressful? I'm sure most preachers have preached about how we shouldn't let the busyness of Christmas obscure it's real meaning - our church's play this year is even about that. We really do have this idea that busyness and stress is something that's not supposed to be a part of Christmas, something we managed to add as our culture messed Christmas up.

But what if the greatness of Christmas is such that it is necessarily preceded by struggle? There had to be slavery for there to be an Exodus. There had to be sin for there to be a redemption. Or maybe it's just that Christmas is so wonderful that Satan will always try to make it diffucult for us to get there.

Of course we can overdo it. Of course we can invest ourselves in things that really aren't worth the effort. Of course we can get caught up in meeting other people's expectations, rather than doing those things that are really meaningful.

But maybe, if we're stressed and overwhelmed, it's not necessarily because we're doing it wrong. Maybe it means we're doing it right.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Deconstructionism and the Mad Hatter

I just came across this hilarious and delightful bit from another website. I'm pretty sure it wasn't really written by Carroll but you get the point:

Scholars have been thrilled recently at discovering a hitherto unpublished fragment of Lewis Carroll's work about Alice . It goes like this:

'When I use a word,' said Humpty Dumpty scornfully, 'it means what I want it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'My dear old thing,' said the March Hare, 'there's more to it than that. When you say or write something, you've got to reckon that you can't keep tabs on it. Other people may take what you say quite differently from how you meant it. It's like setting a bird free. Once it's gone, it flies where it wants.'

'I'm afraid he's right, Humpty' chipped in Alice , passing him his tea. 'If you want to get through to us, you've got to use words in ways that we'll understand.'

'Absolutely,' the March Hare agreed. 'There's no ultimate reason why we shouldn't call that teapot over there by the name "hot water bottle" instead. But if you were the only one who did call it "hot water bottle" you'd be in for a shock come teatime.'

Alice continued, 'Of course, you could start a new fashion, and if you did it frequently enough then at least all your friends could get the hang of it, and we'd know "hot water bottle" meant "teapot".'

The Mad Hatter had been listening to all this with mounting displeasure. 'What tommy rot! You're both talking as though Humpty could use language to communicate something.'

'He's not as thick as that,' objected the March Hare defensively.

'Not just him - anyone,' the Mad Hatter came back, splattering bits of muffin over the tea party in his intensity. 'Language doesn't give me access to what Humpty thinks. How could I know he was using language in the same way I was? When he says, "I'm having a nice time here" he might mean by "nice" what I mean by "nasty". And we could never find that out, because all we have to say is that what we mean by "nice" and "nasty" are other words. It's all just words. It's as though each one of us is inside a little bubble, all on our own, and every now and then we float close to each other, but we never know what's going on in the bubble next door.' He paused for breath and turned to Alice . 'Another cuppa, please, Alice pet, three sugars.'

'Pet, eh?' said Alice from between clenched teeth. 'That sounds like an offensive socially conditioned sexist term.'

'Only to you, Alice dear, just your subjective reaction,' said the Mad Hatter, taking his tea and sipping it. 'Blinking ____, I asked for sugar, didn't I?'

'So sorry,' said Alice sweetly 'In my language "three sugars" means you don't want any.'

'You know jolly well what I meant ...' the Mad Hatter accused as the tea party broke up in disarray.

I found this at as part of a larger article on deconstructionism. I must confess i don't fully understand deconstructionism (and i haven't yet read the rest of the article), but it points out the problem with the extreme forms of some parts of relativistic postmodernism.

Some would say that perfect communication is impossible (which i agree with), but then they take it so far as to say that all knowledge is impossible because all effective communication is impossible. This is when we find people saying that we can know nothing with reasonable certainty. Again, i am grateful for those who have alerted us to the fact that all communication is approximate and we know less things with absolute certainty than we think we do. But if communication is really impossible, why do the people who believe this bother to write books and articles and blog posts trying to "communicate" this belief? If any communication or knowledge is impossible, why bother to write?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Worship of the Bible

Awhile ago i found this article (framed as a short story) about our ability as Christians to elevate the Bible actually higher than its supposed to be. I know at first glance that may sound impossible, and i don't think all the church is guilty of it, but it does make you think. I really reccommend it.

"The Sacred Idolatry"

It talks about how Christians can sometimes put more emphasis on the Bible as the way to know God, than they do on actually knowing God. But then, i find myself asking, am I able to know God apart from the Bible? I'm not talking theoretically - i know a person without a Bible can still know something about God and that a person who rejects the Bible can never really know God. But in my own life, sometimes i wish i could learn more about God first-hand. I wish i was better at discerning His leading so i could learn from that. I wish i was better at identifying the ways He was active in the events and circumstances around me, so i could learn from that. Sometimes i wish He would speak to me directly more often, so i could learn from that.

I know some people might read this and say that my lack of personal "divine experience" is an indication that there really isn't a God. Of course I disagree. I have seen God working. I have heard him speak. I just wish i had more of that to accompany the thousands of years-0ld stories i read in the Bible. But i am grateful i have those stories, because as i have described i don't have a whole lot besides them to help me know God.

Anyway, all that was to say that maybe the article goes too far in its emphasis on knowing God rather than knowing Him through the Bible. The Bible really is one of the best ways we have of knowing God, especially until we learn to see Him in the present.

Friday, December 02, 2005

My Feeble Attempt at an Explanation of Divine Inspiration

Hello again.
I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about the Bible and what I believe about Divine inspiration. I'm a youth pastor and a student, so it's been coming up a lot and I'm keenly aware of how important it is for me to be at least close to right on this one. Here's what i've come up with so far:

"The Bible is God’s word because to reject what it says is to reject God. The Bible is God’s word because it is both the record of God’s revelation of himself (in the stories) and the preservation of God’s revelation of himself (in the prophecies). It is God’s word because those who wrote it were serving God in doing so, and wrote truthfully about God and what He has said to us. I don't think the non-prophetic parts were dictated by God to the writers, but just as I find help when I attempt to preach, I am sure the Lord helped those who wrote these things down for our benefit. "

What do you think?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What If We Really Are Supposed to be Pacifists?

What if Jesus really did mean for us to be pacifists?
I have friends who would answer "Of course!" and ones who would answer "Of course not!" I have relatives in the military, relatives who have their concealed-carry permits, and (on the other hand) friends who belong to the church of the Bretheren. And it's hard because i respect all of them and don't want to offend or to discredit the things they believe so firmly.

But i cannot picture Jesus carrying a gun. I can't picture him hurting anyone, even in self defense. He left some dangerous situations out of concerns for his safety, but as far as we know, He never fought back. He spoke up for himself sometimes. He didn't collapse into a miserable pile of defeated humanity.

But of course we can't ignore that this is the same God who commanded the Israelites to attack and annialate (sp?) whole groups of people. I guess you could call it localized genocide. The "man after God's own heart," who is still one of our examples of faith, was a man of war.

But what if, like so many other things, the rules have completely changed since Christ has come? What if the time for that is past? I really like the quote that "the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," and it makes sense. But what if we really are more powerful when we refuse to fight than when we do? What if God was trying to tell us about a spiritual reality that doesn't seem to make sense in our normal world - but is still true? What if it's one of those things we have to take on faith?

There's a third option, what if it's right to fight for someone else, but not in self defense? What if we should defend others, even through violence, but what if it's selfish to defend ourselves?

I really don't know. I'm not trying to bash the military or the NRA or any of that. But i really wonder. What if we're going about everything the wrong way? If i am a follower of Christ, shouldn't that include His lack of violence?