Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Comfort or Miracles

If God so desired,
Would you go there?
To the place that you thought,
You never could bear?

His blessings await,
But not on the world.
In eternal perspective,
Suffering here is a pearl.

Reliance on Him,
Is born when our lives,
Have no other coice,
But to depend all on Christ.

So live that your life,
Will follow His voice.
Comfort or miracles,
Which is your choice?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Three Doctors

At this point in this series of blogs, I recognize that I have lost all but the most loyal of fans of this show, so what can be said that is not already known by that particular segment of people? (Nothing) On the other hand, what can be said in the off chance that someone who has never seen this show is still interested in seeing some of the very early days of Doctor Who. Honestly, this blog entry is evidence of a need for completion of thought process more than a argument in favor of the first three incarnations of the Doctor. That is not to say they are not good, they all are in their own way. However, they are very much a product of their time, and that time is not often embraced by people used to today’s standards of television production.

That being said, here is a brief glimpse into each of the first three Doctor’s eras:

The 3rd Doctor

John Pertwee’s Doctor was very British and proper and old school. He was patronizing to his “assistants” and somewhat classist in that older English way. His era was an activist era. Ecology and politics were often the topic of the stories. Many a child of this era grew up to be liberal and idealistic. The top stories are probably “Inferno,” “The Green Death,” and “The Daemons.”

The 2nd Doctor

Patrick Troughton played the Doctor as a baffoon and a bumbler, but it was all an act that the character himself was putting on to keep his enemies off guard. Unfortunately, most of his stories were taped over by the BBC so they no longer exist. Those that do are still great, even by today’s standards. “The Mind Robber,” “The Invasion,” and “Tomb of the Cybermen” are all stand-outs.

The 1st Doctor

William Hartnell started the whole thing off. To be honest, nobody had any idea what they had or what they were doing when the show started. It just evolved over time. Had writer Terry Nation not stumbled on the idea of the Daleks the show would not have lasted more than a couple of years. “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” from the second season is still a great story and a good allegory for fascism and processing what Europe went through during WWII.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Romans 1:24-32 (Our Own Way)

The result of humanity’s rebellion is that God has “let us have it.” Paul says that God gave humanity up to their lusts and passions. We have gotten exactly what we desired. When we rebelled against God and wanted to do things our own way, God let us do it. We chose sin over obedience and now humanity is awash in the depravity, exactly where our desires have led us. When we acknowledge that the world is a dark and messed up place, we need to acknowledge what we have made it that way.
The list here is extensive and hard to swallow. This passage has become infamous as the “go to” place to put homosexuals in their place, but that is just a small part of Paul’s description of our fall, and really only the beginning. Sex of all dishonoring sorts is where the list starts, but it quickly moves into areas that are just as evil but even further reaching. Malice, envy, strife, deceit, gossip and all those sins that destroy people and relationships contribute (even more so) to the world being the way it is. Somehow, though, they are the ones that we give a pass to and even practice frequently without much worry or guilt. Try to find a church without any of those sins. Sin has destroyed true and open communication.
Then there are the phrases “inventors of evil” and the part where we “give hearty approval to those who do them.” This is the sad state of humanity in rebellion against the Creator. We have to see this—and own up to the truth of it—before we can begin to see that the Good News Paul is about to describe is indeed good. Boy do we need it!

Friday, June 25, 2010

More Top Films: High Noon

There is a story that says John Wayne hated High Noon so much he went and made Rio Bravo with Howard Hawks as a more “American” version of the story. Seems he felt that High Noon’s portrayal of America was too weak and liberal and pessimistic. That may be so, but High Noon is still a great movie. (And perhaps a more appropriate vision of America today.)

First and foremost, the story must be seen as an example of human nature and not specifically of American culture. In High Noon we see a society that has become so comfortable and complacent that they will let anyone run their lives and tell them what to do as long as they aren’t made too uncomfortable. Comfort has superseded freedom as a value. Freedom is too hard to maintain and protect. It requires work and sacrifice. It requires for people to fight in order to keep it. It is easy to see how most cultures in the world do not value freedom. They prefer relative safety, security and a guarantee of a little rather than potential with risk.

In High Noon, we see a town that has freedom, but are unwilling to fight to keep it. And since the western is an American genre, we are safe in assuming that the story here is indeed about America. The idea was that Americans had become too comfortable and were content to let one man fight and sacrifice himself for their freedom. That is what offended Wayne. He saw an America that was full of many people willing to fight for freedom and their rights. In 1952 he was probably right.

Today not so much. You can be sure that a culture is in trouble when the people ask not for leaders with vision and values, but handouts. In America today comfort has replaced freedom as the main value. Not only do we not have a Gary Cooper willing to fight for us and then despise what we have become, we have turned the country over to people who use the threats coming our way to advance their own selfish agendas. They have sold out to the bandits coming our way and use the very threat of those bandits to gain more power at the expense of our rights.

Maybe this movie isn’t so much an insult as a warning.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Soccer Frustration and Postmodernism's Problem

The philosophy known as Postmodernism, while still evidenced in popular culture, is in its dying days. One of the main tenants of Postmodernism is that since it is impossible to know truth, there is no absolute truth. This was a reaction to the Modernist idea that it was theoretically possible to know everything. As is often the case when people encounter a problem, Postmodernism went to the opposite extreme.

The problem is that there is an absolute truth—a reality—and we can know truth. Maybe not all truth and all of reality, but we can know and recognize truth when we see it. Take soccer for example. Soccer is a sport where only one opinion and perspective count. If the referee sees something happen, it happened. If the referee does not see something happen, it did not. The only problem is that audiences also see what is happening, and especially with today’s technology, they see the reality of what occurred. So, when a referee calls a player off-side when they are not, it makes fans mad. We are mad because we see a team being punished for something they did not do. Even more ire is induced when a player does a convincing piece of acting and gets a player sent off when they didn’t do anything. We know truth and hate injustice.

Just because the referee has a limited perspective and therefore a limited knowledge of reality, it does not mean that there is no reality. We all have a limited perspective of reality and can only know a portion of truth. However, reality and truth do exist in spite of our limited perspective. Knowledge and Reality are not synonymous, and we can know reality. Especially when an outside perspective shows us reality that we cannot see on our own.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Spiritual Warfare: Strongholds

“The wise man scales the city of the mighty, and tears down the strongholds in which they trust.” -Proverbs 21:22

Militarily speaking, a stronghold is any defensive position of strength. When a force digs into a defensive position to maintain the advantage it possesses it can cause a lot of problems for an advancing attack. During the Normandy landings at Omaha Beach, key positions were prepared and held by German forces that made the landing as fatal as it was. These strongholds had to be taken out for the Allies, even in forces far outnumbering the enemy, to land and succeed in their mission.

Spiritually speaking, a stronghold is similar. It is a position that the enemy maintains in a person’s or culture’s beliefs that makes it impossible for truth to be seen. It is a lie that is believed forcing the person or the culture to not see truth. Often these lies lead people into destructive behaviors.

The Church itself is not immune to strongholds that keep it from doing its job. Lies like:

A church needs to have a building in which to meet.

Programs and activities are what are needed to reach people and change their lives.

The more people you have at your events, the better church you are.

People should memorize pre-packaged versions of the good news and recite this at as many people as possible regardless of context, and that this is what the Great Commission is all about.

That people are saved by repeating a magical formula.

That when people do not respond to our message it is because their hearts are hardened and has nothing to do with the way we are connecting (or failing to do so).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

4th Doctor

Tom Baker played the part of the Doctor for seven long years, was the first Doctor to “make” it in America, and the first one whose tenure drew the attention of the censors—all aspects that make him still the definitive Doctor. After all, when the Doctor appears on the Simpsons, it is Tom’s incarnation that appears.
If this era of the Doctor could be characterized in a single way (and incidentally, it can’t, but let’s say it can) then it would be when the Doctor became a Gothic adventurer. The show had always been a little scary, but this is when it went from being exciting, action scary to conceptually scary. It tapped into ideas and dangers that were all very real and had implications beyond educating children about science, politics and the environment as it had done before.
Gothic horror is one of the best genres of story to explore morality and consequences, and Tom Baker’s Doctor did just that. One of the recurring themes in the Baker era was the way religion is used to manipulate and control people. To list just a few of the many great examples: (Some of these are accompanied by some good fan-made trailers. Thanks go to

Ark in Space
Before Alien ripped through into audiences’ psyches, this story explored the idea of human on a space station waking from deep hibernation only to discover that an alien being was using them to incubate and reproduce. It is claustrophobic, intense, and makes creative use of a new technology for the day (bubble-wrap.)

Genesis of the Daleks
The Doctor faces his oldest (and most symbolically evil) foe, the Daleks when he is sent back to their creation with the task of preventing their existence. It is the classic debate, would it be justifiable for someone to have killed the child Hitler if they had known what he would become. You could avoid the deaths of millions, but you would have to kill an innocent child.

Pyramids of Mars
One of the earlier stories linking Egypt and its ancient religions to alien intelligences that just so happen to also be extra-demensional and also satanic, or at least demonic. The Doctor is always in a good vs. evil battle, but not often do the stakes rise to the level of evil on a Satanic scale.

The Face of Evil
The Doctor ends up on a planet where he is worshiped as a god. How did the natives come to worship him, or even know who he was? An interesting look at how false religions come into existence.

Robots of Death
This episode does explores a few philosophical themes involving robots, the uncanny valley, race and such, but it is really one of the best of the bunch because it is a classic murder mystery that is well written, acted and designed.

Talons of Weng-Chiang
This story is pure entertainment. It is the Doctor Who version of a Holmsian mystery with Victorian London, Chinamen, an evil little ventriloquist dummy and giant rats in the sewer.

The Stones of Blood
On his quest to find the missing pieces of the Key to Time, the Doctor encounters a sect of pagans worshiping at an ancient stone circle. As it turns out, the group are being deceived by an alien and the stones are monsters that drink blood.

State of Decay
In a parallel universe, the Doctor visits a planet where the population are ruled by a group of vampires. The vampires use a religious system to maintain control and forbid the people from discovering the truth by forbidding reading and education.

Tom Baker comes to the end of his term when he saves the entire universe from destructive entropy that the Master has conspired to unleash.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Romans 1:18-23 (The Pathetic Condition of Humanity in Rebellion)

“There is little use telling men that they need to be saved until they feel the need for salvation.” Francis Schaeffer

Paul begins to expand on his description of the Gospel in verses 16 and 17 by clarifying the human condition. Not just as sinners. Not just as people facing the wrath of an angry God. Humanity is in open rebellion against the creator of the universe. Interestingly, Paul begins with sin and not the existence of the creator. This is because we do not need to be told there is a God. We know.

This point needs to be clarified a bit. To be sure there are people today that say there is no god. These people just as religious (or non-religious as the case may be) as people who think there is a god. They are living by faith—it is just another faith system that they have built up for themselves. (In that sense, the Obama administration is right in allowing Humanist and Atheist groups into the faith-based charity programs that the Bush administration began, they are religions.) They do not need to be convinced that there is a God, just to give up the arguments they have built against that God’s naturally and universally assumed existence. Again, Francis Schaeffer states it well:

“Non-Christian philosophies don’t become popular because of their intellectual appeal, but because people have chosen to rebel against God. They rebel and refuse to glorify and thank God as Creator. Only then do they search for a rationale for their rebellion in the mysteries or promises of other religions.”

So, it is not the existence of God that Paul focuses on here, but on the sinfulness of mankind’s rebellion against that God. It is amazing how applicable this passage has been throughout the years. Humanities rebellion has led to surprisingly predictable outcomes over and over again. Men turn from the creator and place their faith in the creation. Be it Animism, deified human forms, or today… the goodness and potential of the human race itself. We have so little imagination. We turn away from a God so great that His inconceivable nature must be revealed in ways that only hint at His true nature—and worship pathetic replacements that resemble what we see in the mirror. One final Schaeffer quote:

“Scholars today will talk about people making God in their own image and will think they are clever to have made this observation. But Paul observed this in the first century!”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

2005 in Film

2005 was a tough year in film. A lot of promising stories and ideas were disappointments. Some that were initially disappointing, like War of the Worlds, have gotten better with time and perspective. Even the best of the bets could have been so much more. The top six on this list here, though, are still truly great:


Top 10 Personal Movies of 2005
1. Batman Begins
2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
3. Brick
4. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit
5. Munich
6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
7. Serenity
8. The Brothers Grimm
9. Nanny McPhee

10. War of the Worlds

Bottom Personal 5 Movies of 2005, The Biggest Disappointments
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
3. King Kong
4. The Fantastic Four
5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Top Movies I Still Need To See or Revisit
1. Oliver Twist
2. Kingdom of Heaven
3. Good Night and Good Luck
4. Angel A
5. The Corpse Bride

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Blind Eye

A lot of opinion has been expressed about Sandra Bullock’s latest film, The Blind Side. A lot of people seemed to love it based on the box office figures and the accolades that it received. It was a heartwarming tale about how someone can make a difference if they are just willing to open their eyes to the need around them and be a little selfless.

The other side of that opinion tended to side with the character in the movie who suggested that the whole thing was just “racial guilt appeasement.” They point out that the popularity of the movie and its sales figures represent the sort of people who are a lot like the family in the film (southern, white, and relatively well off); and who could (and should) be more like that family and make a difference. If we are honest the film is indeed just an appeasement, because there were probably not a whole lot of people going out after the move and taking poor kids in to their homes let alone even getting to know any.

(The film also has a bizarre aspect to it, due to the strange way it presents black characters. Michael is the only black person in the film that is not the typical negative stereotype. In fact, he is presented as an innocent who somehow earns the help he receives through his goodness.)

Another film based on the true story of a person going to extraordinary measures to help others is Schindler’s List. And as contrived as that film’s ending can seem, when Schindler laments that he did not do more, one wishes The Blind Side had something like it. Instead of making the audience feel good that one family helped one person, something could have been done to inspire the financially capable audience to actually do something themselves.

There are millions of helpless and orphaned children in the world and American audiences have all the finances, capability, and means (through the help of several organizations) to make a real difference in those lives by simply giving up some of the luxuries we indulge and do not need.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Boobies, Earthquakes, and Divine Intervention

Many a Christian child has grown up confronting an unbelieving world and just wished that God would make Himself clearly seen in a miraculous way. The problem is that (a) He does all the time and people choose not to see it, and (B) people see the divine in other things that are simply not real.

For instance, a few weeks ago some Muslim teacher declared that earthquakes were God’s way of punishing women for showing too much skin, specifically cleavage. Several women thought that was a bunch of religious poppycock (which it was) and decided to stage a day where they would get as many women to show as much cleavage as possible all at once. They wanted to prove the guy was wrong by showing that it would not cause an earthquake. The result? A 6.9 scale earthquake in Taiwan. Thanks, girls.

Of course the boobies did not cause the earth to shake. The earth experiences over 200 6+ magnitude earthquakes every year. However, it is a perfect illustration of how divine manifestation is not the best way to cause people to believe in God.

On the one hand, it is too easy for any charlatan to get lucky coincidentally. (Just the other day in our local visa office, my wife and I were waiting for our turn in one of those systems where you draw a number and wait for yours to show up on a display telling you which office to go to. After a long wait I declared that our turn would come in ten seconds and proceeded to count down the seconds. Exactly when I got to zero, our number came up. It was pure luck, but so precise that my wife was convinced I had some secret way of knowing it would work.)

More irritating is the fact that even when God really does intervene miraculously in a situation, people who are not inclined to believe will find a way to explain Him away. People like Richard Dawkins and others have made hyper-skepticism an art.

Just stick to sharing the truth that you know to be true through your experience with God and the faith that you have and don’t despair when people are slow to see reality. Even if it seems like a slow and unconvincing way to get the word out at times, it really is best the way it is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spiritual Warfare: Diversionary Tactics

When Jesus left the church on earth as His representative, He gave them a clear directive to follow. If you think about it, for a teaching coming from Jesus, it was surprisingly clear and unambiguous. Make Disciples. Teach them what I taught.

So why is it so hard for the church to keep the number one job in the number one spot. In military terms, it seems like we have been fooled by a bunch of diversionary tactics.

So many churches and Christians today are obsessed with all sorts of trivial matters that should not concern us in light of the tremendous job we face.

Lately the biggest seems to be this whole trend toward bringing God’s plans to fruition through prayer and praise. The idea is that God cannot (yes, that is what they teach) accomplish His plans for the world until the church prepares the way.

In fact, this whole concern with the “last days” and the perceived need to understand all that the Bible has to say about the second coming and how today’s events relate to that teaching is a big diversion. After 2000 years you would think that people would realize everyone who starts their sentence with: “We are living in the end times…” or something similar has been 100% wrong every time. Jesus Himself said that no one, not even He knew when that time would be.

Let’s knock this whole distraction down right now. You need to know exactly two things about the end times:

God wins with all His plans going exactly as He wants when He wants.

Our task until that happens is to be doing what He told us to, spreading the message of His love.

Everything else is just static.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

5th Doctor

The early eighties may represent the low point for Doctor Who. Later in the decade, the show got sillier and more… eighties, but here in the Fifth Doctor’s era it often committed the more unpardonable sin. It was often boring. There were still very neat concepts and stories: Black Orchid, Earthshock, and The Black Guardian Trilogy all come to mind. However, even these entertaining stories do not carry the usual philosophical or thoughtful ideas that good science fiction and particularly Doctor Who tried to provide. Then there were stories like Four to Doomsday or Warriors of the Deep that were way to heavy handed in their message.

Kinda & Snakedance:

A possible exception, though only just, are the stories concerning an interesting villain, the Mara. These stories delve into explicit religious territory. They were written by a Buddhist and explored those beliefs also incorporating Judeo-Christian themes. Kinda has a storyline following the Genesis 3 narrative. The very name “Mara” is the Buddhist concept of temptation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Romans 1:1-17 (Further Introductory Matters)

In an introductory sentence (much longer than usual, due to the greater need for introduction) Paul describes himself, his message and its content very succinctly.

Paul is a bond servant of Christ. His life is not his own, nor does he do what he wishes, but follows the orders of his Master. He is also called an Apostle. This could mean that he is simply a messenger, but Paul’s case we know that it carries special significance placing him in the order of the 12 who served and followed Jesus during His time on earth. Finally, his life is set apart for the Good News.

The Good News was promised by God through the Scriptures and is about His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was born a man of the line of David and revealed to be God’s Son by overcoming death. The Good News says that through Jesus we have received grace and we too are apostles—messengers to share the faith with all peoples.

The Roman church is known throughout the world, according to Paul, because they are living out their apostleship as God desires. They are a missionary church, sharing their faith throughout the empire.

Paul would very much like to come to Rome so that his message and understanding of the Good News might strengthen them, and that they in turn would help him spread the message further west. What he would like to share in person will be the content of this letter: exactly what is the Good News and how is it effective and powerful in changing people?

Friday, June 11, 2010

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The second film ever to receive all five major Academy Awards is not the top ten material that many seem to think it is. (In fact, none of the three films to so far do so really achieve that level of artistry and meaning. The Oscars aren’t that sort of event, after all.) Do not understand. It is technically competent, well acted, and a great story. It just has it failings, and this is not the first assertion of that fact.

As it stands, the story is trying to present a parable of the dangers of totalitarian ideologies. Specifically, communism is what the filmmakers had in mind here. Any system that attempts to control and rob humanity of its freedom is an evil system. People, while not perfect or even truly good, are not made better by outside force—they merely cease to be human.

The largest problem with Cuckoo's Nest is its protagonist. He is so flawed that today’s audience is hard pressed to get on board with his quest. Presumably in the 1970s, audiences were so fed up with authority that they would cheer on a reprobate child molester. Today’s sensibilities have a harder time rooting for a man who was so negative in free society (causing fights and having sex with a fifteen year old) that he was locked away.

In the end, we are clear on the negatives of the totalitarian system, but we do not see any hope that there could be a system that would help people to live in harmony and freedom. It is easy to complain but far harder to provide helpful ideas.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!

The whole world is gearing up for one of the most fun months in sport. It only comes around once every four years and it really has no parallel. World Cup Football is truly an amazing experience and those of us who have to experience it in America are truly to be pitied.

Take it from someone who knows. It is not just being able to see the games. Sure, you can see pretty much every game now if you really want to. That isn’t enough to get the whole experience. Imagine the kind of frenzy that you normally get for the Super Bowl, but magnified over an entire month with multiple games occurring each day. The whole thing is building up to a final that the entire world will watch. Like March Madness, but instead of a bunch of schools playing a sport that a few people watch, it is the national pride of countries around the world competing in a sport that 90% of people play at some point.

Every day the conversations are about the tournament. All the news agencies find a way to connect their coverage to the events around the game. Schools let out and people take TVs to work. Everyone is watching.

Having had the fortune to live in two host countries when the World Cup was occurring, I have even more insight into that of which I speak. When the Cup was held in America in 1994 it was just another sporting event with the exception that most sports nuts didn’t really understand what was going on. People tried to watch it, but knowing that their own chances of winning were small, they failed to really get on board with the party.

Germany 2006 was a different story altogether. For 31 glorious days the whole country was experiencing an all out celebration. 80 million people were all on the same page and what is more, most of the world was right there with them.

Here’s hoping that we Americans will continue to increase our awareness of this great event and eventually join the global family of humanity. Plenty of countries with no real chance of winning still love the game.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Facebook and Privacy

There is a lot of paranoia these days about privacy, Facebook, and information on the Internet generally. On the one hand there are real concerns about identity theft as well as safety in a somewhat dangerous world. However, paranoia being what it is—this has probably gone a little too far.

The CEO of Facebook may really be one of those Bond villains hiding out in his underground secret base waiting to take over the world through social media. In reality, though, he seems like a guy with a revolutionary idea of another sort. Maybe he wants to make the world a better place.

Zuckerberg stated it himself, when he wrote “When we started Facebook, we built it around a few simple ideas. People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. When you have control over what you share, you want to share more. When you share more, the world becomes more open and connected.” It may be a na├»ve approach to life in this big, bad, evil world, but isn’t that what we have been taught all our lives? If people would just communicate clearly and more a lot of the problems and conflict in the world would be solved, wouldn’t it?

To be sure, we want what Facebook offered: the ability to control what we share, but sharing is good. This whole obsession with privacy is what is perhaps more interesting today. When did privacy become such a sacred cow? It does seem to be one of those things that, the more you fight and scream for your right to privacy, the more people wonder what you are up to to need so much of it. Things done behind closed doors tend to be things that might not need to be done at all. Not everything, mind you… just a lot of it.

In the end, it is not Facebook’s fault if you write something on the World Wide Web that you don’t want people to know about. That’s the idea behind the “World Wide” part of www after all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

6th Doctor

The Sixth Doctor was a little messed up. He had an aggressive and grumpy temperament and was generally unlikable as a personality. His adventures were offensive to some for more than just the garishness of the Doctor. His stories were violent. The irony is that, for the most part, they were violent in making a point. They served as a commentary to the violence so prevalent in entertainment. Running from 1984 to 1986, they were on the air at the same time that shows like “The A Team” were airing on other stations. So it is a bit ironic that Doctor Who received so much criticism as it was commenting on the very same aspects of the culture.

The show was put on hiatus after one season of the Sixth Doctor. When it was brought back it was reformatted and audiences were treated to a season-long story where the Doctor (and the show itself) was put on trial.

Vengeance on Varos

The commentary this episode is trying to make is anything but subtle. On a planet where the populace is placated by torture and violence transmitted on television, there is even a whole sub-plot involving two characters sitting at home watching the events on their TV.

The Two Doctors

An entertaining episode involving two versions of the doctor. Robert Holmes always writes clever scripts with interesting ideas. Here, a species of alien is introduced that is obsessed with cooking and eating all sorts of creatures. The delicacy of interest here is, of course, humans. The story is a not so subtle case for vegetarianism, and it is quite effective. The Doctor himself decides to become one. (A decision lasting three regenerations.)

Revelation of the Daleks

Taking place on a funerary planet, this story is darkly comical and macabre. The funerary story provides very little religious ideas, but an assassin character has a code of conduct that harkens back to religious orders of knights.

The Trial of the Timelord

Not really a season-long story, so much as a season-long framework used to tell four stories. (Much like the idea used in season 16.) The Doctor is put on trial by his species for allegedly interfering in other cultures and causing death and destruction. In many ways, the show itself was on trial as many of the issues brought against the Doctor (violence, killing, etc.) had been brought against the show. The majority of this season presents interesting ideas about belief, truth, and trusting what we can understand versus what we believe.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Romans (Introduction)

In the previous five letters Paul wrote we see him dealing with churches he started and problems that they were facing. They are all “case specific” letters. Romans is something new. Paul is writing to a church that he did not start; he hasn’t even been there yet. Therefore, Romans is a careful description of the Gospel message, not formulated out of need or in urgency, but clearly thought out and by way of an introduction.

(That being said it is grouped in with Galatians and the Corinthian letters as a part of the “Big Four.” These four letters share more than mere length; they all deal with similar themes. Mainly, Paul defends “his” Gospel message against the influence of the Jewish teachers that were trying to convince his churches to be more Jewish. For instance the words “circumcision” and “law” occur frequently in these four letters and hardly at all elsewhere in Paul’s writing.)

Whereas Galatians and (even more) the Corinthian letters can be read as a “how to” for church planting and church life; Romans is more about the message itself—that understanding that ties a church wherever it may arise to all other groups of believers in the world and throughout time. “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sin Nombre (y Poca Esperanza)

Going into the theater to see Sin Nombre, I saw a man who said he was about to see it for the third time. Afterwards, I wondered how he was avoiding suicidal tendencies.

This is not a movie one should see for entertainment purposes. It is hard, cruel and does not reinforce your faith in the goodness of human nature. It is a great argument for Total Depravity, in fact. That being said, it should probably be on a list of movies more people in the United States should check out. Because the violence, desperation and lack of reasons to hope that it depicts are a reality for millions of people living outside their borders. It does not change the fact that there is an immigration problem in the United States and that something needs to be fixed, but it will help people to be informed and to not take the human aspect of the problem out of the equation.

The story focuses on two people: a young Mexican trapped in the life of a Mara Salvatrucha gang, and a Honduran girl attempting to migrate to the States. They meet when the girl and her family are attacked by the gang on top of a train they are riding. Their journey and story end at the border. There is incredible violence in the gang life and it is apparently true to life as are the circumstances of the migrants riding the trains across Mexico.

The director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, went to great lengths to try to portray the story as authentically as possible. He also one the best director prize at Sundance, as did the cinematography of this film. It is very well made, and the beauty of the camera work stands in stark contrast to the ugliness of the story.

Seeing this movie might open your eyes to the suffering of people outside your circumstances, but sadly, most of us probably couldn’t handle it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fun With Fiction 2

Part 1

The Mueller’s farm was the one behind Matt's. Their cornfield was separated from Matt's by a canal and a stretch of uncultivated earth that Matt's dad left before the fence. The fence was not elaborate, just some poles with electric wires in between to keep Matt's animals out of Mueller’s corn. The Mueller’s corn grew right up to the fence and went on forever. We both knew, as all boys in those parts knew, that you never walked into a tall cornfield, because you could lose your bearing and wander in there for days. The Mueller’s corn was definitely off limits because, even if you walked in a straight line, you would have to walk for a whole day to get out. Cornfields are so hot you would probably faint and dehydrate before a couple of hours went by.

Back to the scarecrow. Old man Mueller was different. Even though he was a big time farmer and lived of his corn, he still liked the old ways a lot. Sure he had all the top modern equipment, but just for kicks he still used a scarecrow on Matt's end of the field. Word had it he had several scattered all over his land.

The one near us was scary, as any good scarecrow should be, but it was scary to us, not just the birds. It had a long, black coat that blew around when the wind blew, and a tall black top hat that must have been nailed to its head, cause it never came off. It had an old women's wig for hair, but Mueller had spray-painted it neon, lime green. It faced away toward the larger portion of the field, so we never knew what the face looked like. It wore short black pants and old, black, lady's boots, the kind with buttons and high heels. And it had red and white striped stalkings. We only saw those when the corn was short or after harvest. When the corn was tall we couldn't see below it waist, except for one day around dusk…

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

666 Four Years Removed

For the 666th post here on NonModernBlog, I am reminded of 6/6/6, the day we moved into our current house. It was actually four years ago today that we arrived in Germany to live. Four years. That may not seem like much, but it is almost as long as I have ever lived in one house in my nearly four decades of life. It would also be hard for us moving in on that day to believe that it would be more than four years before we would again visit our passport country and family. That being said, out of all the cities in all the countries that I have ever called home, Dresden is easily my favorite, and four years have been a joy to experience here. We look forward to many more.

A lot has changed in the time we have been here. The city of 2010 is not the same as it was in 2006. The endless construction one encounters in the former East Germany has seen to the physical changes. The increasing importance of tourism as an industry here has made English slightly more used, although still far less encountered in Saxony than it would be in western parts of the country. The city has grown, with one of the few birth rates that accounts for population growth in Germany.

Our family has changed as well—in more drastic ways than a family would normally change in just a few years. The kids are just as comfortable in the German language and European mindset as English and American. A couple of them have no concept of what it will be like to visit that magical land known as Texas. Likely it will be a fearful land of tornados, rattlesnakes and tarantulas. They may not understand their peers in that land who have been raised in such a safe and clear-cut shell; yet for all that they have been exposed to things that will hopefully make them even stronger in their faith.

Four years ago on the sixth of June, 2006, our new neighbor half jokingly told his wife that nothing good could come from moving into a new house on the sixth of the sixth of the sixth… it would surely be a curse. Instead it has been an incredible blessing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

7th Doctor

The Seventh Doctor, the last one of the original run, lasted three seasons from 1987 to 1989. It is really no wonder that this was the time for the series to temporarily die and it was probably a blessing. The end of the eighties and the decade of the nineties saw technological advances in cinema that television would lag behind for years. Doctor Who’s cheap and cheesy production values ceased to be charming and would have only gotten worse. Also, shows like The X Files and Buffy in the nineties, and Lost and 24 in the 00s would change the way television told stories that rendered the serial nature of Doctor Who unnecessary so that the time off really served the series well.

The Seventh Doctor’s run began in, even for Doctor Who, an extremely cheesy mood. The Doctor had always played the fool to trick his enemies, but one wondered if this Doctor weren’t indeed a complete idiot. Some of the stories had a lot of promise, but ultimately failed to deliver. Towards the second half of his time, however, a noticeable change occurred and the series took a more serious and darker turn. The way things were at the end caused a lot of people to regret that the series was not allowed to fulfill the promise of that last season.

Half of the stories from the Seventh Doctor’s time are noted here, (at times even if only for the potential they showed):

Paradise Towers:

A study of a society where the entire society resides in a single albeit huge apartment building. Most of the adults have long since gone off to fight a war, leaving the teen-age girls who run in gangs, senior adult women who have turned to cannibalism to survive, and the caretakers of the building who are following the late architects wishes to exterminate all the residents because the are ruining his art by living there. Whew.

Remembrance of the Daleks:

This is where the stories began to take on a darker tone and hint at mysterious aspects of the Doctors past. The Doctor takes his new companion, Ace, back to the days and location where the Doctor was first introduced in the series’ first ever episode. There he settles some unfinished business and battles his most iconic enemy.

The Happiness Patrol:

A world in which everyone must be happy and unhappiness is punished by a robot “Candyman” who kills people with sweets is helped by the Doctor who foments a revolution.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy:

As if a space circus run by evil clowns isn’t good enough of a concept, the truth is that it is really run by a group of gods who feed on entertainment.

Ghost Light:

A convoluted story about the failures of modernism and scientific classification.

The Curse of Fenric:

World War II England is the site of a confrontation between the Doctor and an ancient evil. Vampire like monsters attack and convert people and are only warded of by belief. Inexplicably, it doesn’t matter what you place your faith in: communism, friendship, or the goodness of humanity, they all work. In the end it turns out that the story is a warning against the evils of chemical and biological warfare.
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