Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Expelled Review (as promised)

Well, I saw Expelled, and I'm going to try to briefly describe my thoughts on the film. First off, I can say that this movie, contrary to the views of atheist and molecular biologist Richard Dawkins, was very well made. It had all the herky-jerky filming that we're used to seeing in a documentary, but there were also some scenes that were marvelously photographed and the movie, on the whole, was slickly produced.

The movie was also quite effective in demonstrating some of the weaknesses of Darwinian theory, and it made establishment scientists such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers look condescending, and often times foolish. These folks had a particularly difficult time finding plausible answers to the question of how life begins. Their stammers and far-fetched explanations were somewhat alarming (Dawkins posits at one point in the film that the first cells were "seeded" on earth by some sort of alien force. Sounds a lot like Intelligent Design!).

There were two areas, however, where the film fell short (in my opinion). One was that the producers failed to give a clear understanding of Intelligent Design, and why it should be considered. They did a great job of showing the problems of Darwinism, but they didn't give a clear solution for those problems. They merely stated that other options should be considered. Who knows, that may have been their point, but I would have loved to have heard more about how Intelligent Design helps fill in Darwinisms gaps.

The second area of concern I had was with the turn in the second half of the film that sought to show the link between Darwinism and Nazi Germany. There is no doubt that Hitler and his minions were heavily influenced by Darwinian thought. There is also no doubt that Darwinian thought naturally lends itself to certain atrocities. After all, when your theory is based upon the survival of the fittest, it stands to reason that the least fit in society will be marginalized. If you're at the bottom of the food chain, you will be eaten.

There is a problem, however, with linking the brilliant scientists of the day with Nazi Germany just because they believe in Darwin's theories. The film was too heavy-handed in its approach to this issue, and it only served to close any doors to dialogue that may or may not have been opened as a result of the legitimate information the film highlighted.

In all, the film was good, but it had its shortcomings. It's still worth seeing, and my hope is that some eyes will be opened by its claims.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Everybody Loves Juno... except me
For months now all I've heard, when asking the generic question, "Seen any good movies lately?" is "Have you seen Juno? Oh my gosh! It's so awesome. Seriously, one of the best movies I've seen in a long time." I usually just turn around quietly and wish I hadn't asked the question. I saw Juno several months ago, and I'm pretty sure I didn't like it. This may sound a bit Obama-esque, but I'm not quite sure why I didn't like it.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I could barely understand Juno, the main character, and her quirky band of whiz kid friends. I wanted to ask them, "Is there a reason you're talking like what seems like a teenager designed by a committee of adults that have researched youth by watching MTV around the clock?" The dialogue was clever... too clever. And where did all this cleverness lead us? Well, the most annoyingly intelligent teenager ever to grace the silver screen brought us the warm tale of teen pregnancy, marital strife, divorce, constant references to unborn children as "it" or "the thing", and overbearingly child-obsessed suburbanites. It doesn't get much more clever than that!!

I kept asking myself if I was supposed to be happy with the way things turned out in Juno. Everyone else I knew walked out of the film pretty excited about the way it ended. I just kept thinking, "That's it? I'm supposed to feel good about that? I'm supposed to think it's great that the girl gave up 'the thing' for adoption to the most emotionally disturbed character on the screen?" But hey, at least she didn't get the abortion!

Don't get me wrong, Juno is funny, light-hearted, and complex. Ellen Page is great as the main character, and her Father uttered one of the funniest lines I've ever heard in a movie ("I'm gonna punch that kid in the wiener the next time I see him."), but let's face it, teenagers aren't that clever. Most of them are pretty un-clever. Instead of uttering quick quip after super quick quip, most teens I know are busy exclaiming, "Dude, check out my new ringtone!"

The movie does demonstrate that there is a frightening stupidity in our society about children, what a blessing they are, and how wondrous the path to new life can be. Kids in this day are objects of consumption and convenience, and that's pretty sad.

So, I thought Juno was clever (cue annoying indie song). It was cool for shizz, but in a totally hamburger phone kind of way. In other words, it was so clever that it almost made me forget how stupid it was. I liked the movie. I found it enjoyable on the surface, but underneath it seemed shallow to me. There were a couple of times when I felt like I was watching a bad action movie or a cheesy horror film. I wanted to yell at the screen, "Oh, yeah right!! Like that would ever happen!!" Then I'd look around to see if anybody was with me, only to find that the film had found a captive audience, believing every over-intelligent smirk.

In conclusion: Teenagers aren't that smart, and they don't really talk that way! Plus, kids are good, and they aren't "things." The end.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled: Darwinism Finally Questioned Publically

Kim and I are going to try to go see this Saturday night. I'll give it a critique after we see it. It's interesting to see a movie like this, and it'll be really interesting to see how the intellectual community deals with the claims of this film. People like Michael Moore and Bill Maher pride themselves on their rebellious stance on so many issues, so it's nice to see someone from a Judeo-Christian background challenging the rebels who now make for the American establishment. That's right, the Moore's and Maher's are now the establishment, and the rebels are now those who challenge secularism. Kudos to Ben Stein for bringing this issue under the light. If you disagree with him, fine... Just give him the same courtesy you expect from others, and listen to his claims. Isn't that the American way?

Here's the trailer, and it's very compelling.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Autism Poem

I haven't written a poem in a while, but I had a little time today, so I wrote one about Pierce. It was therapeutic. Some lines were totally difficult, and others were healing. Such is the layered existence of an Autism Dad. Even if you don't have an Autistic child, you can probably relate to the paradoxical lines of this poem. I hope it proves therapeutic for you too.

The Spectrum

There's a feather in your hair and a sparkle in your eye
You're living in two worlds that fall under a seamless sky
There's a song in your head and it's waiting to be heard
But you struggle for your voice, you wrestle for a word

There's a part of you that soars on clouds to worlds so far away
And a part of you that's tethered to the darkest shade of grey
You're as clear as a water color hanging on a wall
And as stable as a Summer leaf clinging in the Fall

I cannot understand you and I don't know why I try
When you're near I miss your presence, when your gone I do not cry
Your the most painful love I've ever known, the best/worst thing I have
And I love you dearly for it all, the good times and the sad

I wonder if I'll ever really know quite who you are
Like a dream remembered dimly or a far and distant star
Hidden in your face lies your personality
One of many things about you that reamain a mystery

Friday, April 11, 2008

Review: "The Culturally Savvy Christian"

Dick Staub's "The Culturally Savvy Christian: A manifesto for deepening faith and enriching popular culture in an age of Christianity-lite", is the latest in a stack of books by my bedside.  The cover got my attention because it has a picture of a man on the front, and from the urban belt buckle to the suit-coat-with -t-shirt look, this could be a picture taken on any given Sunday at my church.  The striking aspect of this photo is the picture of Jesus, slightly obscured by the cross-necklace, that is printed on the t-shirt.  Is this the culturally savvy Christian, or is this the brand of Christianity that the author is writing against (A brand that is consumer driven, spiritually shallow and entertainment crazed)?

The first chapter is full of quotes and stats that tell us how bad the culture is.  It's interesting, but you've heard it before.  Paris Hilton has no talent, Oprah is the prophet of choice and television will rot your soul.  Tell me something I don't already know, right?

But the second chapter turns the light on "pop-Christianty", and reveals that television is not the only thing that will rot the soul.  Church, with its cineplexes... uhm... I mean Megachurches, and its "anything you can do, we can do cheesier" mentality may be just as dangerous as anything pop-culture throws your way.

Here's the quote that got me:

"Others believe that our apparent success has been accomplished by conforming to American culture rather than transforming it, pointing out, as Alan Wolfe observed, that instead of theological, it is therapeutic; instead of intellectual, it is emotional and revivalist; instead of emphasizing a serving community, it is consumeristic and individualistic; instead of producing spiritual growth and depth, it is satisfied with entrepreneurialism and numeric growth.  Instead of being a moral and spiritual beacon, evangelicalism is viewed as an important political and economic niche."


The rest of the book gives some guidance as to how Christians can become "serious about faith, savvy about faith and culture, and skilled in relating the two."  The sections are divided as such, and Staub has some great things to say about what it means to go a different direction than the current trend of pop-Christianity in a world that has so many opportunities in the areas of intellectualism, art and depth.  

Staub is well-intentioned, but only time will tell if his thoughts truly shape the scene.  Evangelicals, as Staub notes, are well-intentioned and sincere in their desire to reach the culture and transform it.  Staub also has good intentions, but who's to say that his ideas won't end up becoming the next wave of pop-Christianity, or worse, cocooned Christianity.  There is a balance to the Christian life in this world, and few ever achieve it.  Those who do seem to have an intangible quality that allows them to be thought provoking, personable and street smart about the culture.  They make the Gospel look beautiful and believable, and they are rare indeed.  I'm not sure they achieve this balance by reading books... although it probably doesn't hurt.

Oh yeah, about the picture on the front cover... I think this is the person who fails to achieve the balance.  He looks kind of cool, but kind of goofy.  Jesus is great, but he should never be charicatured on a t-shirt.  And the gold chain with the cross is a bad look.  I bet this guy has a gotee!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Anybody Listening?

"Nobody ever listens to my pages!" said the girl at the Barnes & Noble checkout counter nearly five minutes after she called over the speaker system for a manager to help her figure out the glitch that was preventing her from processing my payment. She was obviously irritated, but continued to smile in a self depricating manner, as if to say "Oh well! What are you gonna do?!"

I could feel her pain. There are times when I feel like nobody ever listens to my pages either, and there's nothing more frustrating than being pushed to the back burner, or - even worse - never making it to the stove. Most of us are in need of some type of attention... Any attention! Like an American Idol contestant standing insecurely before the judges, we desperately long for positive feedback, or at least contructive criticism.

So what do we do when there's nothing? What happens when we've sung our song, poured our heart and soul into every detail of it, and there is no applause, no Randy/Paula/Simon praise or criticism? What then?

Perhaps we do as the girl at Barnes & Noble did. Maybe we lament the fact that nobody's coming to bail us out, but we don't let it ruin our day. Could it be that we sing the song not for the audience applause, but for the art and the beauty of the thing?

I read a portion of a book today that asked the question, "What if you had just thirty days to live?" Great question. Would we spend our time nervously waiting on the audience's response, or would we re-imagine what matters and fight like hell to sing the song we're supposed to be singing? Howard Thurman said it best with these words: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

The next time no one's listening, ask yourself if you're doing what makes you come alive. If you are, it doesn't matter who's listening, you will be heard. If you're not, find a song you love, and sing it like nobody's business!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

I Could be in This Club!

Check out this really fun and cool way of supporting the idea that less stuff in our world opens up more opportunities to serve others. This makes me proud to own a 1996 Toyota Avalon with 296,000 miles! Sucker runs like a top!!