Friday, September 30, 2016

Star Trek Enterprise (Season 1d)

Season 1c - 2a

Something glaringly jarring about Enterprise is the discrepancy of technology. We are supposedly exploring the early days of Earth in space. This is way before things like the holodecks. We don’t even have the Prime Directive yet!

It should be a series about exploring a lot of issues that would challenge people first coming onto the interplanetary stage. But it feels like the writers are more interested in pushing Trek universe further. Things like new aliens we have never heard of before, super advanced technology that—in universe—will take another couple centuries to develop, and foes that Trek has established won’t be encountered until centuries later. All of this makes us think that the storytellers wish they were working on a different show. Maybe this “Time War” storyline will fix the discrepancy, but Trek’s history of time-travel stories predict it will likely just make things worse.

Episode 20: “Oasis”

This episode starts out like a haunted house story, but quickly chickens out. Instead, we get some of that technology that won’t be developed for another couple hundred years. Somehow, a solitary, guilt ridden, engineer is not only able to create the tech; but also does it on a level beyond what we will see in the other shows.

Episode 21: “Detained”

This episode is trying to be super thoughtful and preachy, but feels very cookie-cutter. Not only is the story-line—taking the new enemy and pointing out that the entire race is not the enemy—super predictable for Trek… The episode feels like a stunt to get Sam and Al back together. And to get one of our heroes disgusted as an alien. And… how does translator technology work in this era? I’m confused. Why even have a linguistics expert on the crew if the translators work this flawlessly? Or do these new aliens speak English?

Episode 22: “Vox Sola”

Oh, wait… the translators ARE needed again. And how does a race get to the point where eating is a sexual taboo? One can envision how a culture would let legalism extend to the point where people must cover their bodies completely, but this is ridiculous. The main story-line here tries to be scary, but the threat is too quickly contained and then we realize that we are dealing with and appendage with intelligence?

Episode 23: “Fallen Hero”

This episode is well crafted and entertaining, but ultimately just fabricated intrigue.

Episode 24: “Desert Crossing”

So this episode takes that preachy episode from a couple weeks ago and makes it a big mistake and lesson learned for Captain Archer. Are the writers reversing course and saying that internment camps were OK, or just that it is a mistake to do good for others? The continuing progress towards the whole “mind your own business” philosophy of Trek.

Episode 25: “Two Days and Two Nights”

For a mad-cap, comic, embarrassing, vacation-gone-wrong story this episode has very little mad-cap comedy. But the hints at a larger story-arch might be effective at keeping me interested for more…

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Chocolat" (2000)

“Chocolat” is not a perfect movie, but it is the kind of experience I look for in film. It tackles a sticky issue and it fights for its position without completely demonizing other perspectives. And, in this case, it makes a good point.

The village in this “fairy-tale” has an easy life. They all know exactly what is expected of them and they all do what is expected. The brand of Christianity is one with clear rules. As long as you follow them, you will be alright. Break them and you will suffer the judgment of the community. It isn’t very effective at dealing with sins that matter, but people stay so busy trying to fit in that a degree of sin is kept in check. And, in this system you can pretend that you are the master over sin instead of being a slave to it.

That community is run by a mayor who sees it as his duty to “help” everyone be the best legalist they can be. And he of course is the most devout of the lot. In his legalistic understanding of his faith, it is easy to measure “levels” of faith. Simply fulfill more rules than anyone else. The problem is that it is a system that focuses all on externals. Cups washed clean on the outside, but contaminated within. In the mayor’s case, his life has fallen apart. His wife has left him, but he tells everyone she is on holiday. He is living a lie, but he is being the best liar of the bunch.

Arriving in this village—just as Lent is beginning—is a woman, Vianne, who opens a chocolate shop. And, since demonizing others is an even more effective way of building oneself up, the mayor targets her as a threat to this town’s religion.

Vianne has a knack for knowing the chocolate that people will like best. With that comes a knack for helping them find what they are missing in life as well. One of the women she befriends is Josephine. She is a bit of an outcast on account of her strange behavior. She is married to Serge, a man who abuses her. However, when she meets Vianne she finds the courage to run away from home and find a place where she can be accepted and have purpose.

The mayor is initially angered that Vianne has helped Josephine rebel against her wedding vows, but then he learns of the abuse. It is then that we get a comparison between the two competing approaches to healing. Josephine learns to love and respect herself and become a part of the community by being loved and respected. Serge is subjected to extra-legalism training to help him become a better man through will-power.

A problem with the film and its fairytale approach is that sin is rendered a bit toothless as there is no explanation of the Christian understanding of redemption. Yes, legalism is a sinful attempt to heal sin on our own, but simply rejecting legalism doesn’t help. There needs to be a real source of forgiveness before we can experience the healing love and acceptance of God.

Vianne also has a struggle of her own. She is trapped into a different sort of prison of ancestral worship and hopeless isolation. Will she break free and find true belonging in the community of Christian faith once the village is healed of its legalism?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Genesis 5: From Adam to Noah

Following the Prologue (Genesis 1:1-2:3), and the first major section (Genesis 2:4-4:26) we get the first genealogical interlude in Genesis 5:1-6:8. All five of the major sections of Genesis will be divided by such interludes.

For the most part, they are mere bridges, tying each major story (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph) into the timeline of history.

It is tempting to scan these genealogies and move on, and perhaps surprisingly that is exactly the best way to approach these passages. Because the alternative temptation—to scour through these texts seeking special insights or precise details about unanswered questions—produces mountainous problems from scantest uses of ink.

In chapter five we get a quick glimpse of the first ten generations of humanity. Any attempts to calculate spans of time without exact numbers (manuscripts vary) or an insight as to what was being counted is an exercise in futility, and that isn’t even the point of this chapter. We are simply meant to get from Adam to Noah with an understanding that these are real people, not characters in fiction.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Undigested Praise and Worship Ramblings

It finally happened. I have heard a “praise and worship song” that venerates praise and worship. It was bound to happen because P&W isn’t anything new. It is another in a long line of trends that are neither good nor bad, but have a potential to be either. Humanity exists to worship God, but ever since we chose to glorify ourselves rather than the Creator, we have been in search of something to worship. Anything will do and we tend to go with the herd—the trend—when it comes to our idol of choice.

The way we worship God has always been a source of danger. Throughout Biblical history we see example after example of idolatry born out of attempts to worship the Creator. When Moses tarried too long on the mountain with God, the people had Aaron build a calf so that they could worship God. When Jeroboam saw a threat in his people having to go to Jerusalem to worship, he made idols and told them that they represented God.

And through Christian history we have seen a similar pattern. The church experiences God and chases after a repetition of the event. We fall in love with the worship instead of the object of our worship. Three or four decades ago people began to prefer a more direct, more intimate style of worship and it was good. The old way was good too, but for many it had become rote—tradition without reason. And since the tradition had become venerated, we experienced the “worship wars” in churches all around the world.

Eventually things settled down and the new way became the status quo. And now one gets the feeling that it is burning itself out as well. It has often ceased to be about God and is now just the latest object of our affections. It has become hard to distinguish between worship services and concerts. It is hard to distinguish between these songs and generic love songs.

I know it is trendy today for artists of faith to do generic “worship” albums. That is where the money is. But what we need again today is a return to the profound explorations of God and His truth. “Spiritual song” like the ones Paul refers to in his writings that—more than praise—teach and remind us of God’s words to us. We need to rediscover that real worship happens outside the weekly concert. It is found where life is lived the rest of the week. The P&W part is really just the overflow of a life lived in worship.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hope: Our Testimony in the World 4 (John 15:18-27)

Our response, a witness. vv26,27

Here we have the third (of 5) teachings about the Holy Spirit. He is to be Helper, Interpreter, Witness, Prosecutor, and Revealer. Here we hear how He is a witness to Jesus. We are with Him in this task. This explains, too, how our persecution will be as a result of the world’s hatred of Jesus. Jesus is gone and such persecution should have subsided. But we are now the witnesses of Him and His work in the world. And we are empowered to do so by the very Spirit of God.

If we are not facing any persecution, it is likely too that we are not doing our job. We instead try to water down our story. We only tell the non-offensive stuff. We talk about love and how much help God is, but we avoid unpleasant stuff like sin and how God wants us to do things His way.

This world is already a difficult place with suffering, death and evil. We are fools if we think we can avoid that. So why do we fear what people will say and do if we share our source of hope? Do we even really have the hope that Jesus teaches us? If we do, we will recognize that this is the very hope that the world around us needs. We will be compelled to share it with others. Because many of them also see that the world is a tough place, and some of them may be aware of their own part it making it so. They need to know the hope and love that faith can bring.

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