Friday, May 30, 2008

"In God We Trust"

There are some crazy Christians in the Antelope Valley. First, the Antelope Valley Press (link will expire in a week) reported on a woman whose home was vandalized after she spoke out against the Lancaster (CA) City Council displaying the slogan "In God We Trust". She wants it treated as a hate crime, which I'm inclined to favor. Nothing like showing the love of Jesus by spray-painting "In God We Trust" on someone's house.

The same day, Kieffe and Sons Ford in Mojave apologized for using a well-worn spam email in an ad campaign telling non-believers to "sit down and shut up" because they're in the minority. After first being blogged about here, the story was eventually picked up overseas. I never did hear the ad before it was pulled. I guess I missed out.

The funny thing is, if we really believe, "In God We Trust" then does it really matter if others disagree? I don't mean that in an inflammatory way, but rather if we really believe that then why retaliate against someone who believes differently, or tell them they need to shut up?

The irony? While my wife and I were discussing this over lunch, we were enjoying our In -N-Out burgers with "John 3:16" printed on the bottom of our sodas. Isn't Free Speech a wonderful thing?

Are you Lost?

A pretty unsettling title for a Christian blog, don't you think? But the truth is, I'm a total geek for the TV show Lost. Last night was the big finale, and I haven't watched it yet SO DON'T SPOIL IT. But I usually read up on the "Doc Jensen" preview put up at Entertainment Weekly and it inspired me to post. (I admit to falling way behind and lacking motivation, so at least this gets me logged on.)

Religious themes are stashed all over in the show as there is an ongoing tension between the theological and philosophical, the empirical and the spiritual. There are mysteries throughout, and one of the funnest parts of being a "Lostie" is trying to keep up with other fans' theories as to what in the world is really going on.

Early on, the main theory was that the island was Purgatory, but the writers/producers have said that's not true. And there's been too much science since the first season for that to be the case. There's always something mystical going on, but usually later explained by science. But we still have unexplained healings, apparent moral judgements by "smokey", and ghosts, a lot of ghosts.

My theory, once Purgatory was shot down, was that the island is Eden and all that we've seen since season two have been the results of people trying to exploit Eden for science. I've expanded to think that the purpose of the Dharma Initiative was in fact to scientifically either create or prove/disprove God. I'm still sticking with that theory in some form, but the show is good at proving most fans wrong.

I hope the show doesn't take a strong anti-religion theme, which has become too common of late. But Doc Jensen sees the signs. I'll post his observations and let you figure the rest out. Namaste!


I know some of you don't buy my theory that the smack-stuffed Virgin Mary idols were an encoded reference to Karl Marx's critique of religion as the opiate of the masses. But what do you make of the golden Jesus statue belonging to Hurley's mom — the one he almost employed as a club in last week's episode? According to a simple Google search, ''Golden Jesus'' happens to be street slang for heroin. Explain THAT one, non-believers!

Okay, fine: coincidence. But what about ''Oceanic 815''? Ever do research into that? ''Oceanic Feeling'' was Sigmund Freud's famous term to describe the (misunderstood) yearning for/belief in God. But almost as a parry to Freud's thrust, there's ''8:15,'' which correlates to the Bible's most famous oceanic survival tale, the story of Noah's Ark, in which God destroys the world, then rebuilds it through a ''chosen one'' and his family. The verse, Genesis 8:15, is famously one of the shortest in the Bible: ''And God said to Noah:''

And then there's ''Bearing 305,'' which is the directional heading the freighter needs to take to the Island, lest it get lost in the time-storm anomaly. This surely links to John 3:05, which was also one of the Biblical citations on Mr. Eko's stick. It reads: ''Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit.' This verse is part of a larger passage that serves as the foundation of ''born again'' Christian theology. However, it should be noted that the story of this verse involves a discussion between Jesus and a learned man named Nicodemus, who walks away from his initial encounter with Christ deeply confused.

Taken together with ''Christian Shephard'' (Jesus) + ''Empty Coffin'' (Empty Tomb) – ''Christian Shephard was a boozy, emotionally abusive, untrustworthy, adulterous jerk of a man,'' and the sum total is a show that is supporting its ongoing thematic debate between science and faith with cleverly constructed symbols and allusions that mirror that discussion — and specifically grapple with the most critical, non-negotiable elements of the Christian faith: the claim that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead.

Am I wrong?

Friday, May 23, 2008

It is Well With My Soul

It was reported yesterday that the youngest daughter of Steven Curtis Chapman was killed in an accident at their home. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. It is tempting to take Satan's approach to Job that it's easy to glorify God when everything is going well. But one's faith is truly tested when the inexplicable happens. Steven Curtis Chapman has certainly glorified God through his music, but also through his family and the adoption non-profit he founded. For tragedy to strike his family directly like this must be gut-wrenching as he is likely wrestling with the question of "why?"

To relate to this songwriter, I turn to another- Horatio Spafford. If the name isn't familiar, he's the writer of It is Well With My Soul, one of my favorite hymns. This is the story "behind the music" (courtesy of Wikipedia):
This hymn was writ­ten af­ter several trau­matic events in Spaf­ford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chi­ca­go Fire which ru­ined him fi­nan­cial­ly (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville Du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While cross­ing the At­lan­tic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with an­o­ther ship, and all four of Spaf­ford's daugh­ters died. His wife Anna sur­vived and sent him the now fa­mous tel­e­gram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spaf­ford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daugh­ters had died...

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Marketing the Gospel II

This weekend, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian made $55 Million and came in first at the box office. Were you one of those who caught the movie this weekend? According to projected numbers, you weren’t. In fact, by some accounts the movie took in $20 Million less than anticipated. Obviously, you weren’t doing your Christian duty. What? You didn’t know that besides going to church on Sunday you were supposed to go see this movie? At least that’s the expectation of Hollywood execs, who believe that Christians are supposed to buy lockstep into anything resembling “Christian media.” And what better example than the movies based on the popular book series by C.S. Lewis. Maybe not enough Christians went to see the movie because the Christian message in the movie was diluted. According to a review in the San Francisco Chronicle, “The Christian allegory, unmistakable in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," is nowhere to be found in "Prince Caspian…" Alas, Lewis without Christianity just isn't Lewis… [W]hat the movie needed throughout [was] a feeling of the consequences of living in a world without the presence of benevolent creation. Those are the true stakes of the battle.”

When I was a kid, I loved these books. But not because I’m a Christian. They were well written, imaginative, and of course the cartoon was really cool. I remember when a friend of mine was telling me the story of Aslan was representative of Christ. When re-watching the cartoon, and rereading the book, I didn’t see it. I guess the Spirit hadn’t yet blessed me with enough depth of theological insight to pick up on it, and I was embarrassed years later when I learned that my friend was right. I guess at that age, I was still immune to the efforts to market Christianity. (see my last post for my opinion of Stryper)

But who is it that is marketing the Gospel this time around? The movie was made by Walden Media, but it needed the muscle of Disney to distribute it. That’s right Disney, once one of the hottest targets for the Religious Right for promoting the “homosexual agenda.” But that’s old news. This is the second Narnia movie and there will be more and Disney hasn’t been in the crosshairs for a while. But it shows how difficult it is to be consistent across the board in supporting Christian media or even Christian businesses. They say politics makes strange bedfellows, but marketing makes the strangest of all.

A case in point is a recent article in Newsweek on Penthouse expanding into more mainstream markets. I guess print media’s share in the multi-billion dollar porn industry has dwindled considerably due to this new-fangled intra-web thingy. But what’s most funny is that one of Penthouse’s “honest” endeavors is a Christian-dating site. Goes to show that when money is going out of your wallet, you never know who you can trust.

Oh wait, yes you do. You know you can trust in God. Don’t put your faith in Christian media: Christian music, Christian websites, or Christian television. Put your faith in God above and in Jesus his son. The Gospel doesn’t need to be marketed to be powerful and effective. "As it is written: 'See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'" (Rom 9:33)