Tuesday, July 31, 2007

High-risk activity

It shouldn't be, but apparently taking your children to a movie targeted at them has become a high-risk activity. I took my boys (11 and 14) to see Transformers today. I have heard good reviews from a number of sources that I normally find trustworthy, so I felt good despite it's PG-13 rating. Unfortunately, there was way more "13" in this movie than I would have liked.

One scene in particular really makes me angry. The main character (a 16 year old boy) is in his bedroom looking for something the good robots really need, when his parents come up to inquire as to the racket he and the robots are making. Now, you have to know that there are a number of very funny, clever things about this scene. At one point the lead robot (Optimus Prime) is looking in the window and speaks to our hero in a voice that is reminiscent of a parent mildly frustrated with their teenager. To hear it come from a giant robot was hilarious. Anyways, his parents come into the room, and follows a discussion about what is going on that centers on "self-pleasuring." I choose not to use the standard term here because I do not want my blog to go down the same path as the stupid movie. I was so frustrated. And the scene went on and on, all while I was sitting next to my 11 year old who needs not be exposed to this right yet. He will be soon enough, it was just so aggravating to have to sit through this totally gratuitous scene.

Why is this necessary? There was absolutely no need for it, and I remained sufficiently angry throughout the rest of the movie that it lessened my overall enjoyment. Why would anyone target a movie to young boys and then go in this direction? The low-key sexuality of the starlet was bad enough, but is there not a single person in all of Hollywood with the practical sense to know that this would be inappropriate for a large portion of their target audience?

And since when is this subject even funny?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter

I love the Harry Potter books. I have since the first one came out all these many years ago. From the very beginning I have differed strongly with the shallow perspective of many Christians concerning these books. In my previous life as the associate pastor of an evangelical church, I kept my opinion mostly to myself. However, I no longer have this constraint, so I thought I would take a minute to reflect on the issue.

I was one of the millions who stood in line at midnight to get a copy of the 7th book. I knew that I could have just slept in and gotten one the next day. I didn't even start reading it until I awoke the next morning. I just wanted to be a part of the fun of the final book. I met 5 or 6 really interesting people in line; one of the young ladies in out little group won the door prize of a signed poster and we all rejoiced with her. I think that is one of the nice things about the books - the heroes are unquestionably the good guys, and the bad guys are unquestionably evil - so there are not a lot of ambiguous fans. Everyone roots for the good guys. It's a huge club.

Since then, I have read two very different articles about the series, both by conservative Christians. One, in the online journal OneNewsNow.com, is a wondrous example of the silly, shallow stupidity spouted by Christians who don't bother to think beyond the surface. Nearly nothing the "evangelist" Tim Todd says about the books is inaccurate, yet he is viewed as credible by many. He makes statements about J. K. Rowling without any corroboration, and rather than quoting her, he makes vague references to things she is reported to have said. All in all, it was embarrassing; but even worse, I am fairly certain that Mr. Todd is not, and will never be, embarrassed. And worst of all, there are probably many people who read his writings or hear him speak and accept what he says as authoritative without ever bothering to check his credentials.

The other article, by La Shawn Barber in townhall.com, (do not read her article if you have not read the final book, to say it has spoilers is a MASSIVE understatement) is none of these things. Ms Barber is a fan, and she see the positive qualities in the stories for what they are. There is no superstitious fear of a book because "magic" is the underlying plot device; rather, Ms. Barber points out the power of the common themes of sacrificial love, true friendship and rebirth. These are themes that resonate with humans because they are the themes on which our fallen world is now built. The final resolution of history will come from the sacrificial gift of the One who created it. Men and women are destined for a glorious rebirth because of that sacrifice. And while the Potter books do not use these themes for religious reasons, the themes are nonetheless there, and believers can find much that recalls for them the truths in which we place our hope.

Finishing the final book was horribly bittersweet. I will greatly miss Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid and Dumbledore. I have looked forward to each new adventure, and have loved sharing them with my boys. If you haven't had the opportunity, or have been afraid, go find a used copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and read it. Or, if you haven't the patience, watch the movie. These are stories that reflect the Great Story told by the Greatest Storyteller of all.

My children recently asked me if I thought God liked the movie Evan Almighty (we all did), and I told them I thought He probably did. I'm pretty sure He likes the Potter books as well.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More on civility

Yesterday, while talking about the helicopter crash here in Phoenix, I touched briefly on the loss of civility in our culture. This came to my mind in part because of a segment on the Hugh Hewitt show last evening. He and his guest were reviewing some of the submitted questions for the GOP YouTube debate, and they and I were both struck by the tone of the questioners. So many of the clips featured people being major-league smart-alecks. Now, I have a long history of sarcastic wit, it probably is even genetic to a certain extent for me, so I can appreciate the approach (I have, however, sworn it off, but that is for another time and post).

The problem with sarcasm in adversarial relationships (and debate questioners are typically adversarial towards their targets) is that the sarcasm effectively ends communications. The target of such attitude would really like to propose a suitable destination for the attacker, who is themselves obviously looking for a fight. So, rather than doing anything to mitigate the dissension and find a place of conversation, the sarcasm guarantees that neither participant in the exchange is even vaguely open to communication. And both leave feeling that they got the better of the situation.

Personally, I would love to see a lot less attacking, fewer sound-bite arguments, and more open discussion of what we purport to be talking about. With all the sarcasm, there isn't much communicating going on right now.

Friday, July 27, 2007


I live in Phoenix. Today, two news helicopters collided in mid-air, killing the pilot and photographer in each aircraft. My prayers go out for each of the families. They were following a police chase of a stolen vehicle, and early reports are that there was some confusion as to which was above the other.

I am hoping that this will cure us of our morbid cultural fascination with these stupid car chases. Years ago the sports channels stopped broadcasting idiots who run onto the field of play during a game; I think a similar, self-imposed moratorium would be appropriate here.

In general, I would welcome a preference for facts over voyeurism in news coverage. I think this morbid fascination with the exciting is telling of the overall degradation of civility on our culture.

Or maybe I'm just a prude.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I haven't posted in months. Many things are changing in my life, and I cannot any longer keep track of everything. As a result, I have let blogging slide, even though I enjoyed the expression immensely while I was doing it.

I'm back now. I do not think there is anyone reading me; but I am no longer writing to be read. I am writing to write. Hopefully, someone will read, but even if not, I still need to write. There is something visceral for me about expressing my thoughts. When I was teaching or pastoring, there was a natural outlet. Those things are gone for me for now, and I need to do this on this forum.

So if you're still out there, I welcome you to come back and get re-acquainted. I have placed my email address and real name on my profile, I would love to hear from you as well.

Until tomorrow.