Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stranger than Fiction

I enjoy conspiracy theories as an entertaining fiction. It is fun to imagine crazy realities, partly because such outlandish ideas are non-threatening in their unlikelihood. (Sort of how monster movies are fun but serial killer movies are too realistic to be simply entertaining.)

The best argument against every major conspiracy theory is their supposed secrecy. If the government had indeed staged the moon landings, for example, evidence would exist. There would be too many people involved for proof to not have been exposed. Instead, most conspiracy theories argue that a lack of proof is their best evidence. That is silly.

Take, for instance, the idea that aliens have visited our planet and that the government knows about it. This (silly but fun) theory tells us that every president, after they are sworn into office, are shown the proof of the alien threat. That theory would have us believe that there is an entire cabal of people who know about this “truth” and yet it has never gotten out.

If you believed that idea up until now, you would have to admit that it is officially hogwash. Trump would have been told about the aliens and it is not in him to keep such a secret to himself. If the aliens have come, the presidents are not hearing about it!

Trump himself has been the subject of a lot of outlandish ideas. He was just running to help Hillary. (That was wrong!) He didn’t really want the job, and was just in it to win and would turn the actual governing over to underlings. (Also, sadly, a thought that ended up not playing out.)

Instead, reality is proving to be stranger than fiction. Every day that goes by we experience a man who, through incompetence, ignorance, or delusional thinking, digs deeper and deeper into crazy scenarios. No self-respecting conspiracy theorist would try to float the things that have actually happened!

Our conspiracy minded friends are likely all a tizzy with ideas of what will come next. If there is a powerful Illuminati behind the scenes controlling everything it won’t allow such incompetence and ignorance to continue. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there isn’t.

If it weren’t so consequential, it would be entertaining. Oh, who are we kidding? It is entertaining! Isn’t that what we want now? This is what you get when a culture decides that reality TV is preferred over intelligent, character-driven, plot-with-a-message stories. Who wants a smart, beneficial-for-the-people, government when you can have a narcissistic, paranoid-delusional, center-of-the-universe, teen-ager running things?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Death (Genesis 23)

To my mind this is a strange inclusion in the text. Why is chapter 23 even recorded?

Well, for one thing we need to give some thought as to why it is not there. Some commenters try to tie this chapter into Paul’s allegory of the Child of the Promise and the Child of Slavery. (I didn’t say they were good commenters.) They say that we see in the death of Sarah, the passing of Israel. You should never allegorize Scripture. Only Scripture can break that rule, and when it does, it does not give us license to expand such allegories.

Instead, we see an important reminder. The Bible is the story of God’s intervention in history to bring about the reconciliation of fallen creation. Genesis shows us the beginnings of this plan. But this is a long game God is playing. When He chooses Abraham to bless all of creation and to be the forefather of the Messiah, He is going to wrap things up in a few years. Death is still an emanant threat. It is still an ever-present enemy and reminder of our rebellion. We continue to struggle against sin and death—and lose—for millennia. Even after Christ is victorious over sin and death, God still plays out His salvation plan. People continue to live and die, but just as we saw an aspect of grace in Genesis 3, we still see creation continue, God giving more time for more people to find their way back to Him.

Also, there is something here about being a sojourner in this fallen world with God. We do not have—or need—a home here in this fallen world. We are just “passing through.” And yet we do come “to rest” in death and await God’s ultimate restoration there.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ten Years

It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that it was ten years ago yesterday that I started writing here. In that time I have written 2465 posts; probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 750,000 words. What started as a discipline has developed into a habit and, hopefully, a skill. I plan to continue to use this space much as before, but in a less disciplined way. It is time to channel this more and more into other areas as well…

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A German Guiding Culture?

The big topic of conversation in German politics these days is the subject of “Leitkultur.” That translates roughly as a “guiding culture.” It is a concept that has been around since 2000, but with the current zeitgeist—what with Brexit, Trump, and the rise of nationalism—it is even more important today.

A couple days ago on of the leaders of the dominate political party wrote an opinion piece in a national newspaper outlining a ten-point-plan to protect and foment this guiding culture, not just for immigrants, but also for national children being brought up.

It has garnered a LOT of push-back. The guardians of multi-culturalism are not happy with the idea of pushing the home culture over others. But, it does not mean an extreme nationalism is being suggested.

Germany has a very strong national identity. Even when that national identity includes tolerance and openness towards others, it is still something outsiders identify very clearly. And it is not a bad thing.

Here are the ten points the De Maiziere outlined. Which of these would be a bad thing to make sure inhabitants of Germany are aware of?

1. Openness

(We show our faces, we say our names, we shake hands.)

2. Education

(We teach kids general knowledge things they need to know in life and work, even if they prefer not to learn them.)

3. Performance

(We have a high work ethic and want to accomplish the tasks we are given. When it is time to work, we work.)

4. Tradition

(History—both the good and the bad—inform how we live. The relationship to Israel, for example, following the events of WWII, is one that is special and maintained.)

5. Culture

(Philosophy and the arts are something Germany has contributed to all world culture. Germans should know about those contributions.)

6. Religion

(As the cement, not a wedge. Even in what is today a largely areligious society, it is still built on Christian values.)

7. Civility

(We interact in a civilized manner, following rules and respect. Germany is a consensus driven society. Much more consensus driven than a lot of other countries.)

8. Developed Patriotism

(We love our land without hating other lands. Germany’s history shows that unbridled love for one’s own culture can be a problem. A healthy appreciation for one’s own culture and country is what we aim for.)

9. European

(Germany does not want to stand alone or in isolation. A healthy relationship with one’s neighbors and the world are a much better way to exist. We are stronger and richer together than on our own.)

10. Shared Memories

(The places and experiences shared by the people who live in Germany inform their culture and society. People moving to Germany as well, as children growing up here, need to know about these places and events as well.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

One of the things that I loved about the first Guardians movie—despite the lighthearted, popcorn way in which it was delivered—was the way it focused on relationships. The Guardians went from a bunch of unlikable loners isolated from the world (galaxy!) to a group of friends who accepted each other’s personality flaws to give each other support. A defacto family.

Vol. 2 carries that atmosphere even further. The plot-line is almost just a hazy background against which the relationships play out. So many relational lines are in focus, you sort of lose track of the fact that there is a story happening. The Guardians continue to battle with each other as they bond and deal with the vulnerability that comes from being close. Former relationships they have had with people who were antagonists in the last film and dealt with. And behind it all, Peter Quill deals with daddy issues.

The film is just as funny as the first, with one liners making up a huge percent of the dialogue. However, there are also deep moments of strong emotion—if you are capable of seeing the humanity in comic book raccoons, trees, and aliens.

The final shot of the film—before the mandatory scenes thrown in and around the credits—is a beautiful moment of bittersweet sadness. Nothing like what one would expect from a tent-pole, summer blockbuster.

The first film was my favorite of 2014, and it will be tough work for any film to topple this as the year’s most enjoyable, repeatable story.

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